Health officials in Maricopa County, Arizona have reported more than fifty leptospirosis cases in dogs in the past year and the current, ongoing outbreak.
Leptospirosis, a bacterial disease that can affect people and animals, has been on the rise in Maricopa County dogs since February, 2016. The bacteria that causes leptospirosis is spread in the urine of infected animals, including rodents, wildlife, pets, and livestock. People and dogs can be infected through contact with infected urine or urine-contaminated water or wet soil. Dogs with leptospirosis can potentially spread the infection to people and those that work with animals may be at increased risk for infection. Dogs with leptospirosis can shed the bacteria in their urine for up to several months, even if they don’t have symptoms.
Even dogs who only go outside in their owner’s yard can be exposed by infected rodents or other small wildlife.
Symptoms of leptospirosis in dogs can include: Fever, lack of energy, lack of appetite, red eyes, vomiting, diarrhea and signs of kidney or liver damage which can include frequent urination, excessive drinking, yellow eyes and skin, decreased urination, or abdominal pain.
Some dogs do not show signs of illness or only have mild illness. Leptospirosis infection can be fatal or result in permanent kidney or liver damage.
To date, none of the people with exposure to the sick dogs have been diagnosed with leptospirosis, however a few have illnesses that are currently being investigated.
Health officials offer the following prevention recommendations:
- Avoid swimming or wading in water that may be contaminated with animal urine, or drinking potentially contaminated water. This includes unchlorinated water, dog parks, daycare or boarding facilities.
- Avoid contact with rodents and wildlife to reduce exposure to the bacteria.
- Avoid exposure to urine and urine-contaminated soil, water, grass, food or bedding from infected animals (such as rodents, wildlife, farm animals, and other dogs).
- A leptospirosis vaccine is available which can help prevent infection and disease, and should be discussed with the dog’s veterinarian. The vaccine does not have a higher likelihood of causing vaccine reactions than any other vaccine. Exercise standard precautions in dogs with a history of serious vaccine reactions or in which vaccination is contraindicated.