K9 Corner, Jan. 9

Published 9:42 am Tuesday, January 9, 2018


I was reading some miscellaneous news on the Internet and found an article about an Alaskan airliner that was grounded because a rat jumped on board while the passengers were boarding. The passengers were removed to safety and an exterminator was called.

So what does that have to do with dogs? Well, it brought back memories of a friend in Lexington about 50 years ago, who had a kennel of large breed show dogs. She purchased a truck load of dog food which she stored in her barn. Several weeks after she had started feeding from this shipment, her dogs started getting sick. Her veterinarian

Email newsletter signup

diagnosed leptospirosis a potentially deadly bacterial disease. Although the dogs were hospitalized and aggressively treated, many of my friend’s breeding stock died.

This memory reminded me of an article I read recently in the July 2017 issue of DogWatch newsletter published by the Cornell University, College of Veterinary Medicine; no author given. It seems that leptospirosis is becoming more prevalent. It is spread through the urine of an infected animal – rats and mice in the case of my friend whose supply of dog food attracted the rodents. The DogWatch article states that the usual carriers of the bacteria are raccoons, skunks, rodents and opossums.

Healthy dogs can contract the disease by getting infected urine on an open wound or on mucous membranes like the nose or mouth. Unfortunately this is not a disease to ignore since it can spread to humans. 

The DogWatch article also mentions that the disease has progressed from the rural farm lands to the cities and that there were three human cases in New York City this past year that had to be hospitalized with one death. The New York Public Health Department listed the likely carrier as rats.

Continuing with the Cornell article, “the early symptoms in dogs appear four to 12 days following infection. The signs include fever, depression, shivering, dehydration, lack of appetite, vomiting, and generalized pain.” There may be bloody diarrhea or bloody urine. Quick diagnosis and treatment helps in the prognosis of the disease. There is a specific test for leptospirosis, but the sample may need to be sent to an outside laboratory. If that is the case, your veterinarian will normally treat your dog with an antibiotic and fluids until the results confirm the diagnosis. 

There is a vaccine for leptospirosis that covers the four most common of the 200 strains of this disease. This vaccine is given to dogs at a higher risk of contracting the disease such as terriers which were bred to hunt and kill vermin. It is important to discuss this with your veterinarian.

If your dog is diagnosed with this disease, follow your veterinarian’s instructions and practice good hygiene of cleaning contaminated areas, washing your hands and avoiding contact with the animal’s urine by wearing disposable gloves. Keep any other pets away from the sick animal.