Feb 27 2016

Standing water can make your dog (& you) sick (Part One)

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Lucy McKnight

We walk our dog, Lucy, almost every day and she never misses an opportunity to investigate a puddle. Can you relate?

With all of the recent rain, (and more predicted next week) we wanted to remind you that your pet needs to be protected against Leptospirosis. “Lepto” is an infectious disease caused by a bacteria that is passed in the urine of infected animals. It can survive in the environment for long periods of time in warm stagnant water or moist soil. Squirrels, skunks, raccoons, opossums, rats, and deer can spread the infection to dogs. Leptospirosis often causes serious damage to the kidney and liver, and may be fatal in severe cases.

Most dogs are infected by direct contact with urine from an infected animal. Others are infected by contact with water or soil contaminated with infected urine. The bacteria can penetrate the soft lining of the nose, mouth, and eyelid, and can enter the body through open sores and scratches in the skin.

If you suspect your pet might be infected, here’s what to look for: Early symptoms include: lethargy, depression, loss of appetite, vomiting, fever, and increased thirst and urination. As the disease progresses, dogs may develop jaundice, which means the lining of the mouth and the whites of the eyes turn yellow. In some cases there may be bleeding. Illness typically develops quickly, sometimes in just a few days, and can be rapidly fatal.

The good news is this disease can be prevented with a vaccine which can be administered by a licensed veterinarian. Fairview Animal Hospital includes it in our core vaccines. In the event you pet is not protected and contracts the disease, antibiotic therapy is usually highly effective in treating leptospirosis, and most dogs respond quickly once antibiotics are started.

In addition to antibiotics, dogs with severe kidney or liver damage may require hospitalization for intravenous fluid treatment and other medical therapy. The prognosis for severely infected dogs is guarded since overwhelming infection may cause irreversible organ damage, resulting in rapid deterioration and death in spite of appropriate treatment.

One last thing: “Lepto” can spread from your dog to you!! Pet owners should be careful when caring for an infected dog. Precautions such as face masks, gloves, and regular hand-washing are recommended to avoid getting infected urine in the eyes, nose, or mouth, or on broken skin.  Careful disposal of soiled bedding is recommended, as well as thorough disinfection of contaminated areas. Any person feeling unwell after exposure to an infected dog should seek medical attention.

In Part Two, we will discuss a second threat to your dog (and you) that may be present in water or other substances that have been soiled with feces.

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