Veterinarians have issued a warning to all dog owners because of a recent bacteria outbreak. In the Phoenix area alone, more than 50 dogs have fallen ill from this highly transferable disease. Dog owners should be on the lookout for its signs and symptoms not just in their pets, but in humans who can contract it, too.
The Maricopa County Animal Care and Control has been in communications with the Arizona Department of Agriculture regarding the bacteria outbreak. The strain of bacteria has been identified as leptospirosis. Pet owners should take extra precautions, because it can spread easily to humans. In extreme situations, it can cause kidney and liver failure in both dogs and humans.
The bacteria lives in the soil and water and is carried and spread through the urine of infected animals, including pets, livestock, rodents and wildlife. What’s concerning is that some dogs do not show any signs of being ill with leptospirosis. Still, dog owners are encouraged to look for these symptoms in their pets: a lack of appetite, fever, lethargy, diarrhea and vomiting. The Arizona Veterinarian’s Office told The Arizona Republic that pet owners also should look for an increase in thirst and subsequent urination in dogs, a lack of urination, red eyes and depression.
Humans infected with leptospirosis usually develop flu-like symptoms. Currently, there are several dogs confirmed with leptospirosis who have ill owners and are being observed in the Phoenix area, reports The Arizona Republic. But none of those cases have been directly attributed to the leptospirosis outbreak. However, according to Fox 5, one person has already died from leptospirosis in New York City.
If your dog has been diagnosed with leptospirosis, the Arizona Department of Agriculture recommends you consistently wash your hands after handling your pet and wear protective gear like gloves when cleaning up after your pet in order to avoid contact with urine. If your infected pet urinates in your home, clean the area immediately with a disinfectant solution.
Do not take your infected pet to a dog park, pet daycare or boarding facility until all antibiotics have been taken and a veterinarian has given your pet the green light to be around other dogs. Try to prevent your dog from urinating near standing water or areas where other dogs and people frequent. Even if the bacteria is detected and treated, dogs with leptospirosis still can spread the bacteria through their urine for several months thereafter.
Dr. Natalie Marks of Blum Animal Hospital in Chicago, Illinois, told Fox 5 that dogs who live in close proximity to other dogs, such as in urban areas, are at a greater risk of contracting the disease. Those dog owners need to be extra vigilant.
“Dogs that live off of alleyways, dogs that go to the dog park or the dog beach and are drinking water out of lakes; dogs that go to the dog run where there is communal dog water bowls or drink out of store front water bowls are definitely more at risk.”
People and pets can avoid contracting leptospirosis in the first place by wearing protective clothing and shoes to avoid any exposure to contaminated water and soil; avoiding recreational water activities like swimming in areas that could be contaminated with animal urine; avoiding exposure and contact to rodents or wildlife; and vaccinating dogs against leptospirosis.
Here is why veterinarians strongly encourage pet owners to vaccinate against this disease.
Dogs at a higher risk of contracting this disease include dogs that live outdoors; dogs that go on hikes and swim in natural bodies of water; dogs in contact with other animals; hunting dogs; dogs that are regularly exposed to standing water, flooded areas and high traffic dog areas like dog shows, dog parks and pet boarding facilities; and dogs that travel frequently. Take care to avoid high risk areas and keep an eye out for any symptoms in your favorite furry pet. You just might save its life.