Friday, October 29, 2010

Cairns Dogs and families at risk of deadly Leptospirosis

Cairns Dogs are at elevated risk of many tropical diseases.  One of the worst is deadly Leptospirosis, which is a very real threat following a very wet "dry season".  
Leptospirosis is a severe bacterial infection carried by animals such as rodents which is easily caught from contaminated water.  During wet weather when there is standing water in cane paddocks and parks, Leptospirosis organisms from the urine of infected rats can survive for many days.  Dogs or people which drink the water or who have open cuts come into contact with the water can easily be infected. 
Cairns Vet Clinic sees cases of leptospirosis every year, mostly during the wet season.
Leptospirosis causes severe liver and kidney damage and often results in death in humans and animals, even when correctly treated.
The first symptoms may be a high fever like a flu.  In dogs this may present as a dog which seems off color and lethargic. 
Later symptoms include vomiting, diarrhoea, blood in urine and severe depression/illness.
Don't ignore these symptoms in dogs, as failure to start treatment early is a common cause of death. 
Many people become infected with leptospirosis around Australia annually.  In some areas it is more commonly caught from infected farm animals, but around Cairns rodents and wildlife are the main cause.  Many of those infected are working on farms or in gardens and have an open wound which is contaminated by rat urine.  For this reason you should cover wounds and wear appropriate work wear such as boots when working outdoors.  Rats should be controlled by baiting and destroying refuges such as overgrown areas, junk piles and neglected sheds!
Contaminated water can also be a source: this is one reason to boil water before drinking it, and ensure rainwater tanks and roofs are secure and clean.
Once of the Vet Nurses at Cairns Veterinary Clinic caught leptospirosis from dead rats in her rainwater tank!  Yuck!
Unfortunately, many people infected with leptospirosis die, so prevention is the best strategy.
Fortunately there is a vaccine for the most common strain of Leptospirosis to infect dogs in Cairns: Leptospirosis australis.
Cairns Vet Clinic gives very clear advice to dog owners:
Leptospirosis is carried by rats and native wildlife like native rats and bandicoots.
You need to vaccinate your dog against Leptospirosis australis if:
  •  There are rats in your dog's environment (eg. in the compost bin, back yard, shed etc)
  • Your dog often goes into the bush, walks by cane paddocks, creeks, parks which are wet (Like Goomboora)
  • Your dog lives on a farm
  • You live close to a swamp, creek, hillside where rats or wildlife could get into your yard.
The vaccine is given as two initial shots a month apart followed by annual boosters.
Contact us for further details.

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