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Recently reported cases of the often fatal bacterial infection leptospirosis in dogs in Sydney have raised the issue of animal diseases that also affect humans.
This zoonotic disease is spread by rats and other rodents. However, this latest cluster in dogs has not been accompanied by human cases in the Sydney area so far; dog cases aren't always accompanied by human cases nearby.
Ourselves - Pets - Disease
So what is leptospirosis? And what can we do to protect ourselves and our pets from this potentially fatal disease?
There have been at least six confirmed cases of canine leptospirosis so far in Sydney's inner west and city in 2019, with three in May and June. Five of the six dogs died.
Cases - Part - Sydney - Source - Infection
So far, these cases have been confined to one part of Sydney but we don't know the source of the infection. Some people have speculated that recent building work may have dispersed rats and spread contaminated water through flooding.
How is it spread?
Leptospirosis - Leptospira - Bacteria - Rodents - Animals
Leptospirosis is caused by Leptospira bacteria that rodents and other animals can transmit to animals and humans.
Dogs can become infected by direct contact (for instance, from a rat bite or from eating rats) or via indirect contact (for instance, by drinking urine-contaminated water).
Signs - Dogs - Days - Signs - Lethargy
Clinical signs might not show up in dogs for about seven days. Early signs can be vague—fever, lethargy, anorexia (loss of appetite), vomiting and diarrhea.
Dogs can also shed bacteria in their urine without being clinically sick ("silent shedders"). This and contact with sick dogs poses a potential risk to other dogs and people coming in contact with their urine.
Dogs - Kidney - Failure - Injury - Jaundice
Severely affected dogs can develop acute kidney failure, liver injury and jaundice (yellow discoloration of the skin), uveitis (inflammation of the eyes), bleeding and in severe cases bleeding into the lungs leading to breathing difficulties. These clinical signs are the result of damage to the blood vessels...
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