Leptospirosis is a highly infectious bacterial disease that can be fatal to unvaccinated dogs. It can also be transmitted to humans.
The subscription service will add alerts for other bacterial and viral diseases, including canine influenza, this fall.
“Because highly infectious diseases like Leptospirosis can spread rapidly, it’s essential for veterinarians and dog owners to have timely, local information about diagnosed cases,” said Dr. Chris Carpenter, DVM and CEO of Pet Disease Alerts. “With the immediacy of a text or email alert, the new service enables veterinarians and pet owners to proactively protect pets — and their families.”
Unvaccinated dogs and people can contract leptospirosis when in direct contact with stagnant water and soil contaminated by the urine of infected animals such as racoons, rats or other wildlife. Common sources of infection include puddles, creeks, ponds, shallow lakes and rivers.
“If you receive an alert of one diagnosed case of leptospirosis in your county, that is enough for veterinarians and pet owners to be alarmed,” said Emilio DeBess, DVM, MPVM, State Public Health Veterinarian for the State of Oregon and Pet Disease Alerts board member. “Just one case is the tip of the iceberg of undetected and potential infections. The presence of one diagnosed case in a local community has the potential to threaten your dog’s life — and put your family’s health at risk.”
Once a dog has contracted leptospirosis, the incubation period is from one to four weeks. “In the meantime, the infected dog sheds the bacteria into their environment creating a source of infection to other dogs — and to their human family,” said Dr. Craig Prior, BVSC, CVJ and Pet Disease Alerts board member.
In people, leptospirosis can cause symptoms such as fever, headache, vomiting, jaundice, abdominal pain, diarrhea and rash. Without treatment, Leptospirosis can lead to damage of the liver, kidney or central nervous system. Similar to how the coronavirus is transmitted, when people touch an infected dog — and then touch their face — they are at risk of contracting leptospirosis through their mouth, nose and eyes.
“Leptospirosis is a disease that can keep veterinarians up at night,” said Emilio DeBess, DVM, MPVM, State Public Health Veterinarian for the State of Oregon and Pet Disease Alerts board member. “It can be challenging to diagnose in dogs because early symptoms are vague — lethargy, inappetence, vomiting, diarrhea — and can correlate with other diseases. By the time a diagnosis is confirmed, it’s often too late, leading to acute renal or liver failure — and people in the household have potentially been exposed.”
Leptospirosis was previously considered a disease confined to rural areas. This is no longer the case. Leptospirosis is now diagnosed in dogs in suburban and urban neighborhoods, including apartment complexes, condominiums and gated communities — in all 50 states.
Some pet parents mistakenly underestimate the risk for leptospirosis because their dog doesn’t swim in ponds or wade in creeks.
“All unvaccinated dogs are at risk for leptospirosis when they simply step in a small puddle on a daily neighborhood walk or walk on damp soil in their backyard,” DeBess said.
Fortunately, annual leptospirosis vaccines are available to protects dogs — and their families. Time-sensitive notifications from Pet Disease Alerts provide veterinarians and pet parents with local information to help make decisions about testing dogs with symptoms, vaccinating unprotected dogs or making sure dogs are current on annual vaccinations.
To receive leptospirosis alerts, complete a short registration form on the Pet Disease Alerts web site (http://www.PetDiseaseAlerts.org) and indicate three counties to monitor for a year with a $5 donation. If positive cases of Leptospirosis are diagnosed in your local area, the service will send an alert via email and/or text.
About Pet Disease Alerts
Pet Disease Alerts is a public charity focused on alerting pet owners to the threat of pet diseases in their local areas. Established by the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) in 2018, Pet Disease Alerts was founded to directly communicate crucial, time-sensitive information about disease threats, encouraging pet owners to be proactive by visiting their veterinarian and getting their pets tested and protected. For more, visit https://petdiseasealerts.org
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