Rare dog disease on the rise in West LA
THE ANGEL – Vets on LA Westside are taken aback when dogs with leptospirosis walk into their offices.
It is a bacterial disease that has been linked to waste from rats; it is usually seen in rural areas where rats are more common.
Lepto, as it is commonly known, can lead to kidney disease and be fatal. However, it is easy to treat with common antibiotics if detected early, which is problematic as it is usually not tested.
Carly Kinnan took her dog to the emergency room after the young retriever collapsed a few weeks ago. The dog stayed at the veterinary clinic for a few nights as “everything was tested, from its heart to its hips,” she explains. It wasn’t until he was diagnosed with Lepto and took antibiotics that he felt better.
LA County Health confirmed a sharp increase in cases affecting at least one dog daycare in July. Dr. Alan Schulman, a Westside veterinarian, says he knows of at least two facilities that have experienced outbreaks. “The good news is that it is easy to clean up the bacteria with a good cleaning in such a facility. The bad news is that the bacteria can live in the dirt for months, like the dog parks that some of our sick dogs live in become infected, ”he said.
Dr. Schulman believes the sudden outbreak is the result of an increase in rats in parks in homeless camps.
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Animals can infect other animals and people. LA County’s health officials say they have had no human cases but are tracking the outbreak in dogs that can be vaccinated.
Dr. Fearing a full blown epidemic, Schulman predicts that veterinarians may need to start vaccinating dogs against Lepto, just as they do against other diseases like Parvo, on a regular basis.
Common signs of lepto in dogs include excessive urination and drinking of water. Fever and loss of appetite follow, with eyes turning yellow when the kidneys stop working. Younger dogs tend to get sicker. Again, if it is detected early, it can easily be treated with antibiotics.
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