Dog owners are being warned about leptospirosis, with warnings that the rising number of cases of the life-threatening disease could worsen as the wet weather continues.
The number of leptospirosis treatment claims skyrocketed, with a 250% increase from February to September, as rainy conditions worsened in eastern Australia, according to insurance company PetSure.
Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that affects both humans and animals such as dogs, it is spread through the urine of infected animals, with rats being the most likely culprit of infection in Australia.
With the disease spreading through contaminated water, there are warnings that people in flood-affected areas are at increased risk and that continued wet weather could expose more dogs and people, according to the University of Queensland Associate Professor Rowland Cobbold.
“The more water you have around, the more humid the environment, the more likely the disease is to survive and the higher the likelihood of exposure to leptospirosis,” Professor Cobbold said.
Many dogs that contract the disease show only mild symptoms, however, they can develop kidney failure and jaundice, and many die after being infected, according to PetSure veterinary advisor Dr. Betty Chan.
“The signs of leptospirosis in dogs vary, but they can usually include fever, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, depression, weakness or reluctance to move,” she said. declared.
Not only is the disease debilitating for pets and stressful for owners, but it can also be costly.
The average cost of treatment sits at $4,330 but can reach $18,482 in some cases according to PetSure.
There has been an explosion of cases across New South Wales in recent years, according to Dr Christine Griebsch, senior lecturer in ventilatory science at the University of Sydney.
“It started in the city of Sydney, then there was a spread to other areas of Sydney and outside, this year has seen an increase in cases on the south coast and also in Newcastle,” said Dr Griebsch.
“There have been no recorded cases in dogs since 1976, then one case in 2017, two in 2018, and now there have been 60 cases in the past two years.”
The south coast is of particular concern with more than half of the dog cases reported in this region.
Dr Griebsch agreed that La Nina would likely contribute to the rise in cases.
“The highest risk is when it’s really wet, because it survives in moist environments like soil and puddles,” she said.
According to PetSure, the highest number of claims occurred in August, which coincided with rainfall that was 34% above average.
Pet owners who live in high-risk areas like the South Coast and Newcastle are advised to have their dogs vaccinated, says Dr Chan.
However, vaccination may not be enough according to Professor Cobbold.
“The main problem with the vaccine is that it’s not 100% effective, there are about 200 strains of leptospirosis and the vaccine only covers two of them, most of the time dogs don’t get those two strains “, did he declare.
“Vaccines will help protect dogs but unfortunately they are not completely effective.”
Dr. Griebsch recommends that dog owners stay alert with their pets to prevent them from getting sick.
“The most important risk mitigation strategy is to avoid contact with standing water like ponds and puddles,” she said.
“If there is an area where there have been cases, I might avoid the dog daycare as well.
“I also get a little nervous when I see these dog water bowls outside cafes and such, I wonder if they were left out overnight and rats got access to them, I would do very careful to let my dog drink from these communal water bowls.