‘It’s really important’: Leptospirosis outbreak has veterinarians warning dog owners
Veterinarians in the Halifax area are warning dog owners to be on the lookout if their pet is acting strange, as it could be due to a rare infection.
Normally, Halifax vets only see confirmed cases of leptospirosis each year. But in the past few months, suspected and confirmed cases have numbered in the dozens.
"I would say I've probably seen more cases of leptospirosis in the last month than in my entire career,” says veterinarian Dr. Susan Brown.
Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection that affects the liver or kidneys. It can be fatal for animals if it progresses, and the symptoms can be difficult to spot.
"Usually they start off with a fever or feeling under the weather, some muscles stiffness, and it often progresses pretty quickly to excessive drinking and peeing," Dr. Brown says.
Dogs can contract leptospirosis by drinking contaminated water, or if scratches on their skin come into contact with contaminated soil.
"We're being more diligent. If dogs make a mess we get right on it, because that's how it can be contracted, through urine," says dog kennel owner Joanne Pullin
Pullin's dog kennel can see anywhere between 20 to 40 dogs in a single day. She's very concerned about the spread of leptospirosis.
"Normally my take on illness with dogs is give it a day or two before you get checked out. All dogs get sick just like humans, but lately I've got a different take,” says Pullin. “People who have waited two days have already lost their dogs, so if you see your dog throwing up, vomiting, lethargic, get into the vet right away. It's really important," says Pullin.
The best way to prevent the spread of leptospirosisis vaccination, but even that isn't fool proof.
"There's upwards of 200 different varieties of leptospirosis. Only about 10 of those are a concern for dogs, but our vaccines only cover about four of them,” says Dr. Brown, “so even if your dog is vaccinated, it doesn't mean that it is 100 per cent protected."
According to Dr. Susan Brown, Mother Nature could be bringing some good news for dog owners soon. Leptospirosis is more commonly found in tropical climates and the warm weather this fall may be contributing to the unusually high numbers. With winter weather approaching, much of the bacteria could be killed until next spring.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Allan April.