Nova Scotia’s Chief Medical Health Officer is taking steps to make sure pet owners don’t contract an illness that’s been striking dogs in the Halifax area.

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. The highly contagious infection can also be passed onto humans.

Dr. Tricia Horsman says there are currently dogs sick with the infection, who are being cared for at the Metro Animal Emergency Clinic in a closed off area.

“Last week I think we had twelve inpatients, this week we probably we have about six that are suspected of leptospirosis cases,” she says.

Vomiting, increased drinking, diarrhea and jaundice are all symptoms of Lepto.

Concerned with the amount of cases in Halifax, the Nova Scotia Department of Health recently wrote to veterinarians and medical doctors alerting them to some of the symptoms and precautions pet owners should take.

“Basic common sense personal hygiene measures will significantly reduce even the low-level risk that might be in place right now,” advises Chief Medical Officer Dr. Robert Strang.

Leptospirosis is more commonly found in tropical climates and Strang adds that colder weather is expected to reduce the number of cases.

There haven't been any human cases reported so far, but pet owners with sick animals say it can be very serious to treat.

Tim Dixon’s 10-month-old lab puppy is currently on the mend.

“She was running a high fever, and couldn't even walk,” Dixon says. “She was transported that afternoon to the emergency clinic here in Dartmouth.”

Officials say dogs even just sniffing urine left by other animals can transfer the bacterial disease. Dogs can also contract leptospirosis by drinking contaminated water, or if scratches on their skin come into contact with contaminated soil.

Meredith Darrah says she’s avoiding certain areas to keep her dog Olive from catching the infection.

“We're just going to try to avoid the high-concentrated dog areas, so we'll stay away from Point Pleasant Park, and Shubie, places where there are hundreds of dogs,” she says.

Darrah says she’s taking the extra precaution even though her dog has been vaccinated against the disease. 

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Ron Shaw.