At least 13 confirmed cases of leptospirosis in dogs, a potentially deadly bacterial disease that can spread to humans, have been reported in St. George, Utah, within the last two weeks, reported KUTV, citing a press release from the local clinic Red Hills Animal Hospital.
The outbreak was likely brought to southern Utah by an infected animal from Phoenix, Arizona, or surrounding areas, where there was a recent outbreak of leptospirosis, according to Red Hills Animal Hospital’s Dr. Scott Hannig.
The original sick dog has not been identified, and veterinarians suspect more cases of leptospirosis have occurred, but have not yet been confirmed.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, leptospirosis is caused by the bacteria leptospira, which can be passed along in the urine of infected animals and can contaminate water and soil, where it can survive there for weeks to months.
Leptospirosis is particularly dangerous because some dogs can spread the disease for months without showing any clinical symptoms, according to Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Symptoms of leptospirosis may include fever, shivering, weakness, increased thirst and urination, dehydration, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, or painful inflammation within the eyes. The disease can cause kidney failure with or without liver failure.
Both humans and animals can become infected through contact with contaminated water, soil, urine or other bodily fluids, CDC says. In the United States, most cases of human leptospirosis result from recreational activities involving water. Symptoms in humans include high fever, headaches, muscle aches, abdominal pain, jaundice, and vomiting. In later phases, symptoms can be more severe and can lead to kidney and liver failure.
The CDC recommends all dog owners follow these measures to prevent leptospirosis:
- Reduce the dog’s exposure to possible sources of the Leptospira, including rural properties, farm animals and rodents;
- Encourage the dog to urinate away from standing water or areas where people or other animals will have access;
- Avoid handling or coming in contact with urine, blood, or tissues from the dog;
- If the dog urinates inside the house, quickly clean the area with an antibacterial cleaning solution and wear gloves to avoid skin contact with the urine;
- Always wash hands after handling the dog;
- Make sure the infected pet takes all of its medicine and follow up with your veterinarian.