Leptospirosis and your pet

August 16, 2019

Some of you may have heard the recent media attention surrounding a Leptospirosis outbreak in the inner west of Sydney, which has led to the death of six dogs.


Leptospirosis is a disease caused by the bacteria Leptospira sp. There are many different serovars (strains). It is of significant public health importance as humans can be infected, with the potential to cause severe illness including flu-like symptoms, kidney failure, liver failure, meningitis and in severe cases, death. Leptospirosis is relatively rare in people in Australia. It is more common in warm and moist regions such as North-eastern NSW and Queensland. It is also a rare disease in dogs.


Several animal species carry the disease. Rats are the species responsible for the disease outbreak in Sydney. Infection occurs through ingestion or contact of mucous membranes (eyes, mouth, cuts and abrasions) with water contaminated with infected urine.


The six confirmed cases of leptospirosis were restricted to the inner western Sydney area. So far, there are no reports outside this area. The outbreak is likely due to construction of the light rail, causing disruption to drainage and displacement of urban rat populations.


Only one case has had serological testing done, to determine the strain responsible. This has been confirmed to be the strain Copenhageni, which there is a canine vaccine available for. Vaccination should be considered for dogs living in or frequenting the inner west Sydney area.

In Gerringong and surrounds, managing risk factors such as avoiding stagnant water, ponds and rat-infested areas is recommended. Using non-poisonous traps is the safest method of rodent control around the household. Poisonous baits may be ingested by dogs accidentally or pets may be secondarily poisoned by ingesting rodents that have been baited.


Dogs in Gerringong are at risk of contracting leptospirosis by contact with urine of infected cattle, pigs or deer or soil and water contaminated by the urine of these animals.


Currently, there is no Canine vaccine available against the Leptospira strains that are carried by cattle, deer or pigs.


These strains of leptospirosis carried by cattle, pigs and deer, are included in the CATTLE 7-in-1 vaccines. The most common clinical presentation of leptospirosis infection in cattle is infertility and abortions. We highly recommend vaccinating all cattle with a CATTLE 7-in-1 vaccine, for herd health and fertility and OH&S reasons. If you would like any further information on leptospirosis in cattle, please call our Gerringong clinic to chat to one of our friendly large animal veterinarians.




Signs of infection in dogs are vague and non specific – including lethargy, inappetence, vomiting, and diarrhoea. Blood and urine tests can diagnose or rule out this disease. If your dog is unwell call us at Albion Park on 4256 3638 or at Gerringong on 4234 1317 to book an appointment.






For further information search DPI and NSW Health and leptospirosis.







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