Dog owners warned to look out for disease
Dog owners have been urged to stay vigilant in the wake of a recent case of a potentially dangerous rodent-borne disease in a local pet.
The warning came from veterinarian Andrew Madeiros, the practice manager at Ettrick Animal Hospital, who said there had been a confirmed case of leptospirosis earlier in the summer.
The bacterial disease, commonly spread by rats, can be transmitted to humans — but is easily preventable by vaccinating pets.
“We have had suspicious cases as well, where we have not been able to establish whether it was leptospirosis,” Dr Madeiros told The Royal Gazette.
Samples have to be sent overseas for testing — a cost that owners are not always willing to pay, he said.
“We don't want to alarm people. It's a sporadic disease. But because it can be passed to humans, it's an educational message for dog owners.”
Nick Glynn of Endsmeet Animal Hospital said the animal had fallen sick around three weeks after playing with a rat.
“It was a classic case; three or four days later it presented as very sick,” Dr Glynn said. “It causes severe kidney and liver damage.”
The dog recovered after a dose of antibiotics, but veterinarians had to handle it with care. The bacteria are carried in urine, transmissible through cuts or accidental ingestion.
Leptospirosis can be spread through contact with contaminated water such as a puddle tainted by rats. Symptoms include fever, headache and aching muscles, which in a minority of cases can turn into severe, even fatal illness.
“If anyone does get a bite or a scratch from a rat, they should see their GP and get treated,” Dr Glynn said.
Leptospirosis can be tough to diagnose: like many illnesses, it starts with a fever.
“A lot of the time it is flu like; they don't always get sick, and the moment you give antibiotics you can't test for it,” Dr Glynn said. “You could get a dog with a fever and not know that it's leptospirosis.”
Only mammals are able to pass the disease on to man. Cats are usually resistant to leptospirosis, and it is not known to pass between humans.