The trouble with puddles
In the Spring and Autumn, we tend to have quite a bit of rain. Many areas that would otherwise be dry become soggy and wet, retaining ponds fill with water, drainage ditches are like streams. Also during these seasons, our wildlife is more active. They may be searching for a mate or gathering food for the long winter ahead.
But what does this mean to us? What could puddles and wild animals mean to me or my pet?
These factors can lead to our pets contracting Leptospirosis, a bacterial infection. Leptospirosis is a zoonotic infection, meaning it can be spread to humans from animals.
Leptospirosis, or Lepto as we frequently call it, is carried by wildlife and livestock and is most commonly transmitted to an animal from drinking contaminated water. Lepto is spread through the urine of infected animals. It is contagious as long as it remains wet, thus making the soggy Spring a time of greater risk. Dogs can contract the infection from licking an infected animal or any contaminated area, such as grass, soil, or a puddle. While most people are not going to drink from a mud puddle, we can get Lepto, too. Most transmission to humans occurs through food that has come in contact with infected surfaces or through skin contact.
Symptoms in dogs range from fever, dehydration, lethargy, refusing to eat, and back pain to jaundice (yellowing of the skin associated with liver damage), shivering, and sudden death. Initial symptoms in people are flu-like.
While most dogs are vaccinated, some cannot receive the vaccine due to previous allergic reactions. Vaccination prevents dogs from developing the infection if it is boostered appropriately. The infection can be treated with antibiotics although it can lead to permanent liver or kidney damage.
So what can I do to protect my dog? To protect myself? Use common sense when walking your pet. Make sure he is supervised and try not to let him drink from puddles or drainage areas. If you notice the above signs, take him in to the vet as soon as possible. For yourself, make sure to wash your hands before eating, wash fresh produce, and wash well if mud or urine comes in contact with a cut on your skin.