Leptospirosis is a disease that is often fatal in dogs. It can be spread to humans as well. Unfortunately, it is on the rise in the Western United States, specifically in Colorado, Arizona, and Utah.
Leti Paoli’s dog, Copper, battled health issues for several years. In the last year and a half, Copper was back to being the energetic dog Paoli remembered, until two weeks ago.
Paoli’s husband was in the backyard playing with Copper when he believed Copper had re-injured his back. Vets diagnosed him with early signs of leptospirosis.
“One of the first symptoms of leptospirosis is that they’re drinking a ton of water, and then they go out and urinate, and sometimes they have urinary accidents because they’re drinking so much water,” said Dr. Laura Russell, chief emergency doctor at Colorado Veterinary Specialist & Animal ER in Littleton.
Russell helped care for Copper. She says her office usually sees one to two cases of leptospirosis per year. This year, they’ve seen six.
KSL-TV in Salt Lake City reports that 13 dogs were diagnosed with the disease in St. George, Utah. Officials in St. George suspect that the outbreak may have spread from a dog that spent time in Phoenix, which experienced a leptospirosis outbreak in the city earlier this year.
Russell believes this means that the disease has progressed.
“The whites of the eyes will turn a yellowish tint,” she said.
Leptospirosis can be passed from animal to person or, to another animal. Within days of his diagnosis, the Paoli’s were forced to make the difficult decision to put Copper down.
“Copper was such a sweet boy, and he was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Paoli said.
The CDC says leptospirosis is spread through the urine of infected animals. It typically gets into water or soil where other animals can come into contact, becoming infected.
The Paoli family never got the vaccine. Russell said most pet owners skip the shots, because of cost and the fact that some dogs become ill after receiving the vaccine.
“I think it does cause more dogs to get a little bit sicker than other vaccinations,” Russell said. “I’ve seen some pretty terrifying leptospirosis cases this year. I’m vaccinating my dogs this year for it.”
The signs of leptospirosis for people are similar to the flu or a stomach bug. Antibiotics can clear it up for humans. The same goes for dogs if caught in time. Cats are not at risk.
Click here to learn more about leptospirosis.