Leptospirosis In Dogs
Leptospirosis risk to dogs increases with the Mouse Plague.
With the mouse plague spreading across NSW and Queensland, there's an increased chance of dogs catching leptospirosis, a potentially deadly disease
spread mainly by rats and mice.
There has been recent media attention surrounding a Leptospirosis outbreak in the inner west of Sydney, which has led to the death of a number of dogs. There has also been a confirmed death in Elanora Heights, on the northern beaches, and closer to home in Figtree.
Leptospirosis is a disease caused by the bacteria species Leptospira, of which there are over 250 different serovars (strains). It is carried by a range of animal species including cattle, pigs, rodents, sheep, dogs, horses and wild animals including marine mammals. Some animals may not display symptoms of illness despite actively shedding the bacteria in their urine.
It is of public health significance 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. Infection occurs in both animals and humans by ingestion of urine contaminated food, soil or water, or contact through the eyes, gums or broken skin. It is important to practice good hygiene when handling animals or around stagnant water. Wearing personal protective equipment over the hands and face or areas with abrasions and washing hands thoroughly with soap are most effective.
The cases confirmed in Sydney are from the Copenhageni strain, which is found in rats. Increased exposure of pet dogs to rodents has likely been from recent construction of the light rail causing disruption in drainage and displacement of urban rat populations.
Increased numbers of mice and rats in our regional area due to the current mouse plague is likely to increase the risk of exposure to Leptospirosis to our pet dogs.
There is a currently a vaccine for this strain available in Australia. We recommend vaccinating dogs against this strain. Unfortunately there are no other registered vaccines against leptospirosis in dogs at this time available in Australia.
It is very important to manage risk factors such as avoiding your dog swimming in stagnant water or ponds. For areas with rodent populations, close monitoring of you dog to prevent hunting and consuming of rodents is recommended. Cleaning and disinfecting areas where contamination with rodent urine may occur is recommended before your dog using the area to eat or sleep. Using non-poisonous traps is the safest method of rodent control around the household, as baits can be picked up and carried to areas where pets have access them. Pets can suffer from secondary toxicity by ingesting rodents that have been baited or the baits themselves, which can result in death from bleeding.
Strains of leptospirosis carried by cattle, sheep and deer can be vaccinated against. The most common clinical presentation of leptospirosis infection in cattle is infertility and abortions. We recommend vaccinating all cattle with a 7-in-1 vaccine, for herd health, fertility and OH&S reasons.
Signs of infection in dogs are vague and nonspecific. They include lethargy, inappetence, vomiting, and diarrhoea. Blood and urine tests can diagnose this disease. Treatment is commonly successful if instituted early in the disease process. If you have any questions regarding leptospirosis in you r dogs or cattle, please don’t hesitate to speak with one of the friendly staff at Albion Park and Gerringong Veterinary Hospitals.
NSW DPI- updated 31 May 2021