Following recent veterinary reports of exposure to a deadly bacterial disease in NSW and NT, leading animal welfare charity Companion Animal Network Australia (Australia CAN) is urging pet owners to be cautious when out and about with their dog and watch for signs of leptospirosis infection.
Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease (affecting both animals and humans) caused by bacteria found specifically in infected animal tissues and urine. Infection with Leptospira bacteria may cause liver and kidney damage; however, it can also affect the nervous and respiratory systems, and in extreme cases cause death, according to the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA).
“After weeks of wet weather—with more on the way—and an ongoing mouse plague, we remind pet owners of the risk of leptospirosis as the bacteria can live in water, soil or mud or be carried by rodents,” Australia CAN CEO Trish Ennis said.
Australia CAN promotes the human animal bond and responsible pet ownership through national campaigns, partnerships and initiatives. It also represents the companion animal welfare work of six member agencies that provide rescue, shelter, re-homing, fostering, health care and enrichment services to more than 50,000 animals every year.
Earlier in the year, Northern Territory health director of the Centre for Disease Control, Dr Vicki Krause, announced known hotspots for leptospirosis exposure in the Fogg Dam and Harrison Dam areas in Greater Darwin, rural Darwin, the Katherine district, Finniss River, Tipperary, Daly River and Gunbalanya.
Cases of leptospirosis have also been recently detected in NSW’s Hunter region, Marrickville and the Northern Beaches, claiming two dogs in Sydney and leaving another critically ill.
Outdoor activities pet owners do with their dog such as walking, camping and swimming may increase the risk of infection. The bacteria can enter a dog’s body via cuts or abrasions on the skin, or through mucous membranes in the mouth, nose or eyes, according to the AVA.
Symptoms of leptospirosis may include vomiting, diarrhea, inappetence, jaundice, lethargy, changed frequency of urination and bleeding. A vaccine is available to prevent leptospirosis.