Health officials in Texas and Florida are warning people to avoid standing water. The obvious dangers include poisonous snakes, toxins, alligators and downed electrical lines. The less obvious reasons include infectious diseases like leptospirosis. Leptospirosis is a disease carried by rats and rodents. The infective form called a spirochete is transmitted through the urine or tissues of infected animals. Dogs and humans are infected after drinking contaminated water or touching contaminated soil and then transferring the spirochete to food. The flooding from hurricane Harvey and Irma have spread the organism throughout the hard hit areas of Texas and Florida.
Symptoms in dogs include lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, anorexia and extreme abdominal pain. The abdominal pain results from inflammation of the liver and kidneys. Even with treatment, some animals will die. The survivors often sustain damage to the kidneys and liver that require lifelong treatment. Symptoms in people include vomiting, fever and diarrhea. As with dogs and other animals, leptospirosis may cause severe liver and kidney damage that can be fatal.
Prevention is the key to preventing leptospirosis. There is a vaccination available for this disease in dogs. Initially, the dog is given two doses two to three weeks apart then annually. In addition to vaccination, avoid contact with the spirochete by limiting your pet’s contact with wildlife, no swimming in ponds or rivers and keep them away from sick animals. For humans, follow the guidelines listed for dogs as well as practice good hygiene. Wear gloves when cleaning up after your dog, disinfect any items that come into contact with urine and wash your hands thoroughly.
More information on leptospirosis can be found at https://drnelsonsveterinaryblog.com/2016/04/leptospirosis-in-dogs/ as well as www.cdc.gov/leptospirosis.