The mouse plague ravaging large parts of Australia has led to a spike in the deadly rodent-borne bacterial disease, leptospirosis. Here’s what to look out for.
The mouse plague ravaging large parts of Australia has led to a spike in the deadly rodent-borne bacterial disease, leptospirosis.
Increased mouse and rat populations following wet weather in eastern Australia could explain the 107 notified cases of the disease in the three months prior to May. The highest number of notifications occurred in Queensland (53), followed by NSW (46) and the Northern Territory (5).
This disease can affect both humans and pets, as Dr Magdoline Awad – SMARTdaily’s pet columnist and chief veterinary officer at Greencross The Pet Company – explains.
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Hi Dr Mags, I was reading about the dangers of pets catching leptospirosis from mice. I often see mice running around at night and am feeling quite on edge about my dog catching it. What can I do to prevent this happening? Is there a vaccine and what would happen if my dog caught it? Lex
Over the past few months there have been several cases of leptospirosis reported in and around Sydney.
Leptospirosis, or lepto for short, is a bacteria that is shed in the urine of infected animals such as rats and mice.
For some reason we typically associate lepto more commonly with rats rather than mice.
We should be on the lookout for lepto and the potential risk of your dog catching it especially in areas where there have been rats (building sites, rubbish bins) in combination with stagnant water or puddles.
Dogs become infected and develop lepto primarily through ingestion of the urine from infected rats. This usually occurs through contaminated stagnant water or soil or even contaminated food.
Dogs that hunt and eat rodents can also become infected, so you are justified to be concerned. All dogs are at high risk if they swim or drink in slow-moving or stagnant water or come in contact with rodents or other animals that might be infected.
Common symptoms can include lethargy, fever, vomiting, diarrhoea, excessive thirst, bloody urine and jaundice (yellow skin and gums).
You should take your pet to the vet as soon as possible as the chances of recovery depend on how severe the disease is and how quickly treatment is initiated.
Unfortunately, lepto can cause acute kidney and liver failure and when this happens many dogs will succumb to this disease.
It is best to vaccinate dogs especially in high risk areas. You should also avoid your dog swimming or drinking in waterways such as rivers, lakes and ponds and take measures to reduce the rodent population. Walk your dog on a leash in high risk areas, especially if they love chasing rats.
Remember that leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease, so humans can become infected by urine of infected rats or dogs. That’s why it is so important to always wash your hands and seek medical advice if you suspect you have been exposed to lepto.
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