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Leptospirosis and Pets

Leptospirosis and Pets

By Dr. Ian Kupkee

As South Florida temperatures begin to rise, the veterinary community is likely to see an uptick in cases of Leptospirosis. Leptospirosis is caused by a bacteria which is spread through the urine of wild mammals. Although rats are the most common carriers, it is also spread by opossums, mice, skunks, squirrels, and raccoons. While cats are capable of contracting Leptospirosis, feline cases of the disease are extremely rare. Dogs, on the other hand, are always keen to explore the scents associated with wild animals. This common practice of “checking pee-mail” is often how our pets come into contact with this potentially deadly pathogen.

While Leptospirosis is found all over the United States, the bacteria thrives in warm, subtropical climates. It can survive for long periods of time in standing water, including pet bowls that are left outdoors. Humans are also at risk; Florida reported four human cases of Leptospirosis in 2015, one of which was here in Miami-Dade County. Left untreated, Leptospirosis attacks the liver, kidneys, and lungs. It is nearly always fatal. Thankfully, there is a canine vaccine to protect our pets from this nasty bug. It is often included in the Distemper combination vaccine, and has a one-year duration of immunity. If you are unsure as to whether or not your dog is protected, call your vet and find out if their vaccines are up to date. Your veterinary team can advise you on how to best defend your pet from this increasingly common, and deadly infectious disease.

Raccoons are some of the most common carriers of Leptospirosis

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