Article Index "Leptospirosis an Increasing Danger to Your Pets" Article Index

March 19, 2003

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GoatWorld Note: While this article does not mention goats, please know that goats are susceptible to this disease and should be vaccinated in those areas where other disease carrying animals exist.

TORONTO - A disease that poses a danger to both dogs and their owners is on the rise in Ontario, Quebec and the rest of Canada. A marked increase in Leptospirosis in 2002 - a disease that is recognized as a major cause of acute kidney failure in dogs - is part of an increasing trend observed by veterinarians over the last five years.

And while experts don't exactly know the cause of the increase, all agree that vaccination is the best way to protect your best friend, who may have contracted the disease through exposure to raccoons, skunks or possums. What's more, Leptospirosis is recognized as the number 1 zoonotic disease in the world and can be contracted by diseased pets.

"The number of cases of Leptospirosis has risen dramatically in the past several years," says Courtney Forrester, Group Product Manager with Wyeth Animal Health, an animal health company that provides Leptospirosis vaccines to veterinarians. "And Canadian veterinarians are quickly recognizing the need to protect their patients and their owners from this disease."

Market figures show that nearly one million doses of Leptospirosis vaccines were dispensed in 2002, up from half that number in 1999. And more than 75 per cent of all canine Lepto doses used now provide protection against newly emergent strains.

The new strains are carried by wildlife, such as skunks, raccoons and possums and are emerging at a fast pace across Eastern Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes. However, any area of standing water can be contaminated. Infected animals can shed high numbers of Leptospirosis bacteria in their urine. These animals contaminate surface waters in ponds, ditches or puddles in our backyards of rural and urban communities, dogs that visit these areas are at risk of infection.

"It's important to realize that this disease is not just a rural disease. You'll find raccoons and skunks in backyards, wooded areas and parks in even our largest cities. And dogs who come into contact with contaminated water can contract the disease," says Courtney.

For example, the disease led to the destruction of more than 150 dogs in a pet shelter in Montreal. That outbreak led to the Quebec Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to issue a health alert on the hazards of Leptospirosis and recommended vaccination of dogs.

"Fortunately, dogs can be protected against even the newest strains of Lepto through annual vaccinations. Combination vaccines that offer protection against the new strains are now available from your veterinarian," says Courtney.

"If you're getting a little behind in updating your dogs' vaccinations, perhaps it's time to make an appointment for your dog. And while you're there, make sure to ask your veterinarian about new strains of Leptospirosis threatening your best friend."

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