Veterinarians are warning dog owners about the rise of a bacterial disease affecting dogs and their owners as warmer weather approaches.
Several vets in the Chicago area have started handing out warnings to dog owners after a recent spike in cases of a bacterial infection known as leptospirosis.
“It is particularly a problem in suburban areas where dogs of all sizes and ages are becoming in evr-closer contact with wildlife,” the warning reads. “Even more disturbing is the fact that human cases of leptospirosis contracted from dogs and other species, including raccoons, skunks, squirrels, opossums, deer, coyotes, mice and rats, are on the rise.”
The bacteria that causes leptospirosis is spread through the urine of infected animals and can live in water or soil for weeks to months.
Veterinarians warn that people and dogs can become infected through contact with contaminated urine, other body fluids except saliva, water or soil.
Natalie Marks of Chicago’s Blum Animal Hospital said there have been two cases of leptospirosis this week.
The infection can cause flu-like symptoms in dogs, including fevers, and can lead to organ failure if left untreated.
Officials claim kidney failure affects 90 percent of dogs with leptospirosis and 10 to 20 percent of infected dogs suffer liver failure.
“Wherever dogs and wildlife cross paths, from the dog park to your own backyard, exposure to leptospirosis is an ever-increasing risk,” the warning read.
Marks said that the risk of contracting the bacteria is elevated this year thanks to pooling water from melting snow and an increasing number of crop rats eating dog feces.
The bacteria can enter through the skin, eyes, nose or mouth and areas where the skin is cut or scratched are especially susceptible.
While there is a vaccination for dogs to help prevent them from becoming infected by the bacteria, Marks said it doesn’t always work, though she recommends pet owners ask their vet about it as soon as possible.
"Even dogs that are vaccinated are being challenged," Marks said.
She advises dog owners to stay away from standing water or communal water bowls, and to always wipe a dog’s paws off when they come into a home. She also said to avoid walking dogs in alleys.