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Blame the Rats

This fall two years ago, dogs in Halifax began falling sick with liver and kidney disease. The epidemic was unprecedented in recent times. What was happening was not clear at first, but a pattern emerged, and veterinarians in HRM rapidly responded to the wave of illness. It could happen again.

Leptospirosis, commonly called “Lepto,” is a bacterial infection. Dogs can become infected through oral contamination. It usually occurs from drinking contaminated water, but can also happen by licking their feet after walking in water sources. Once infected, dogs may develop kidney disease, liver disease, or both. Infected dogs are usually quite ill, and can die if not identified and treated. It is important to know that people can, and do, get infected from their dogs.

Dogs are treated in the hospital with intravenous fluids and antibiotics. Unfortunately, testing a sick dog is not easy or fast, so the diagnosis is usually based on an index of suspicion and routine blood sample information. Specific diagnostic blood tests are sent to a regional lab and may take time to complete. If treated early, most dogs will survive. Sadly, many do not make it.

Lepto is not a new thing; it has a worldwide distribution and is most commonly seen in the fall. Fortunately, there is a vaccine that helps prevent infection. Ask your doctor if your dog needs to be vaccinated. Although not 100% effective, it is the best thing we have to prevent infection.

If you have any questions, give us a call at 902.225.7543

Written by: Dr. Kip Grasse, DVM

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