Since last month, at least 11 dogs in Washington State have been diagnosed with a bacterial disease known as leptospirosis, two of which have died. These are reportedly the first outbreaks in roughly 25 years. Veterinarians claim that, if not treated quickly, this disease could make its way to humans.
Usually picked up by pets, when they drink from water that has been contaminated with rodent urine, symptoms of leptospirosis include red eyes, muscle aches, lethargy and vomiting. If not treated, the disease can kill quickly.
Humans become infected by the disease when they come into contact with water, food, or soil that has been tainted by the urine of infected animals. In humans, the disease can cause severe liver and kidney damage, respiratory diseases, meningitis and, in rare cases, can prove fatal. Unfortunately, many of the symptoms can be mistaken for other diseases. The only way to confirm leptospirosis is through laboratory testing of a blood or urine sample.
Health officials are confused as to how this outbreak has occurred but they are urging people to be cautious. Pet owners are strongly encouraged to wear rubber gloves and to thoroughly wash their hands, should they have to clean up after a pet’s accident. It is also highly suggested that you avoid swimming or wading in water that might have been tainted with rodent urine and, if you work with animals, to ensure that you wash your hands thoroughly before touching your face, eating or drinking. Meanwhile, veterinarians are telling people to watch out for the symptoms of lepto and, if you suspect your pet may have contracted this, to get him in to the clinic immediately. There is a vaccination that can be used against leptospirosis and, while it is not always 100% effective, it could definitely help your pet. Be sure to ask your veterinarian for more information.