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Potentially Fatal Pet Disease On The Rise In Connecticut



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Potentially Fatal Pet Disease On The Rise In Connecticut

NEW HAVEN (AP) — Veterinarians are urging dog owners to get their pets vaccinated against a potentially fatal animal disease that appears to be on the rise in Connecticut.

Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection that can cause kidney failure and other problems. It is spread through the urine of wild animals such as skunks, raccoons, deer, and rodents.

The disease had all but disappeared in Connecticut but is making a comeback, veterinarians said. The disease has killed about 1,000 dogs on Long Island, N.Y., over the past four years.

Veterinarian Gerry Fischbach, who has offices in New Haven and North Branford, has seen two cases recently, one of which was fatal.

“We haven’t seen any of this disease in many, many years. It was so infrequently seen that most practitioners stopped vaccinating many years ago,” Dr Fischbach said.

State veterinarian Mary Jane Lis said her office has not finished compiling last year’s statistics on animal diseases, but she said there does seem to be an increase in leptospirosis. Her office learned of “probably a couple dozen” cases in dogs in October and November.

Leptospirosis can be treated with antibiotics in dogs if it is diagnosed early enough.

Vaccines do not provide complete protection because there are many strains of the leptospire bacteria, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

The disease can also infect cats and humans. Infected humans experience flu-like symptoms. The disease can be treated with antibiotics, but it is fatal in rare cases.

The wet weather last fall may be to blame for the rise in leptospirosis, Dr Lis said.

In most cases, the dogs lived in homes that had standing water in the backyard, in a wooded lot with wildlife in the neighborhood. Infected urine from wild animals taints the water or soil, and the dogs pick up the bacteria by drinking, swimming, or walking through the water.

The disease causes kidney problems and can also damage the liver, cause bleeding disorders and eye inflammation. Symptoms include fever, loss of appetite, vomiting, lethargy, diarrhea, stiffness, and muscle pain.

Humans also can contract the disease through infected water, or when cleaning up urine or blood from their pets. The disease cannot be transmitted through saliva or through a dog bite, the CDC said.

Pet owners are advised to practice good hygiene when cleaning up after their dogs by wearing boots and rubber gloves and washing their hands.

Infected dogs spend up to two weeks in the hospital, getting antibiotics to kill the bacteria and intravenous fluids to get them through kidney and liver failure, said Anita Soucy, a veterinarian at the Guilford Veterinary Hospital.

Dr Soucy said she has seen four cases of leptospirosis since last fall. One of the dogs died.

Veterinarians on Long Island have seen more than a thousand cases over the past four years, half of which were fatal, said Diane Levitan of Mobile Veterinary Ultrasound and Endoscopy in Woodbury, N.Y. Dr Levitan has been studying the disease.

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