Rabies isn't the only disease transmitted from animals to humans. In fact, you and your pet may share more diseases than you may realize. Fortunately, it's easy to avoid these diseases or conditio ...View Article
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Posted on 01-15-2014
The Dangers of Lepto
Dangerous things are sometimes boring to write or read about.
My colleague, Dr. Ontiveros, brow-beat me into focusing on LEPTOSPIROSIS when my turn came around to write a blog entry. You can blame her; I blame her for lots of other things too.
Leptospira is the parent name for a group of bacteria that those of you still reading have probably never heard about. The disease in humans is also called swineherd’s disease, rice field disease, or water-fever. Microbiologists find it interesting because it has a spiral shape with hooked ends. Pathologists find it interesting because it causes multiple organ damage to people and different types of animals. As a veterinarian and pet owner, I find it incredibly worrisome.
Lepto is very contagious and easy to contract:
• is shed in body fluids (those infected are biohazards!)
• bacteria can penetrate intact skin
• can cross mucus membranes
• survives in standing water
• survives well in soil
Lepto is a worldwide threat to people and animals:
• people (including pet owners and veterinary staff)
• wildlife (including raccoons, rodents)
• livestock (including cattle, pigs)
• dogs (apparently not cats!)
Lepto can be difficult to diagnose:
• specific lepto tests can be inconclusive when positive or negative
• symptoms can mimic any disorder causing kidney/liver disease
• subclinical and chronic carrier states can go undetected
Lepto cases are increasing in Texas including reported cases in Austin:
• we have a warm and wet enough climate to promote survival of this bacteria
• we have a dense population of susceptible and carrier animals
Now for some good news, sort of.
Dogs and livestock can be protected with vaccines. There are a few flaws with the current state of Lepto vaccines, however:
• not every vaccinated animal is vaccinated frequently enough (twice yearly)
• not every version (called a serovar) of Lepto is included in the vaccine
• not every “at risk” animal tolerates the vaccine
• not every veterinarian offers the vaccine
As the incidence of this disease increases, Lepto will become a more familiar word. In the meantime, talk with your veterinarian about the risk/benefit of vaccine protection.
Dr. Troy Smith
Manchaca Village Veterinary Care
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