Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Tuesday's Tips from our Doctors-Leptospirosis!!!

Tuesday's Tips from our Doctors!
Recently our Doctors asked how they could share some facts about the common (and not so common) things that can affect the health of our pets in S. Florida.  This is what we can up with. Be on the lookout for more Tips from our Doctors and be sure to let us know what other things you would like to know about!

Leptospirosis, a  bacteria which can cause kidney and liver failure, can affect both animals and humans. For many years infection in pets has been rare in Florida; however it has been diagnosed more frequently in recent times. Although the bacteria is found worldwide, the organism tends to live in warm, tropical locations, with high rainfall. Risk factors that increase the spread of this disease include: slow-moving or stagnant water, high rainfall, rodent exposure, roaming animals in rural areas, and urbanized wild animal exposure. It has recently been found that 80% of inner city rats have tested positive for Leptospirosis. Examples of animals that can carry the disease to your pet include squirrels, opossums, rats, and raccoons. It can also cause infection in cows, pigs, horses, and deer amongst other animals. To date, it has been reported to have infected over 150 mammalian species.

The disease is mainly spread through the urine of infected animals. It can live in water and soil for months. Infection may occur through contact with contaminated urine, water, or soil that has come into contact with skin or mucous membranes. It can also be transmitted via bite wounds, infected drinking water and consumption of infected tissue.

Common clinical signs exhibited by animals that have been infected include: anorexia, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, increased thirst and urination, abdominal pain, weakness, muscle pain, and yellowing of the mucous membranes. Dogs appear to be infected more severely than cats and occasionally show signs of lung disease and bleeding disorders in addition to the symptoms previously mentioned. Younger pets appear to be more seriously affected than older pets. In acute cases, the survival rate is 80% with aggressive treatment. Treatment often includes multiple days of hospitalization, antibiotics, and intravenous fluids. Some animals require dialysis. Survivors of the disease may have chronic kidney or liver disease. Animals may shed the disease for months after recovery.

As the treatment for this zoonotic disease can be long and quite costly, it is now recommended to vaccinate animals in high risk areas. The vaccine can be given to help prevent clinical disease and development of a carrier state. However, it will not prevent dogs already infected from becoming carriers. Initially, the vaccine is given twice in a three week interval, and is then boostered yearly. Other precautions that can be taken to decrease disease transmission include rodent control, avoidance of contact with reservoir hosts (mentioned above), and proper sanitation and drainage.

Should your pet be diagnosed with leptospirosis, please seek medical advice from your physician immediately and follow the following precautions: 1) encourage your pet to urinate away from areas in which other animals may come into contact with it, 2) use disinfectant to clean soiled indoor areas and wear gloves while doing so, and 3) wash your hand frequently after exposure to your pet or your pet’s excrement.

Taryn Robinette, D.V. M.
University of  Florida, 2013

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