You may be aware of a new disease, potentially lethal for both dogs and humans alike, being diagnosed in areas of Sydney in recent months.

There was a big feature on Leptospirosis on a TV news show recently.

Initially, it was only ‘active’ in certain parts of Sydney. However, those areas have now been significantly extended to include the Southern Highlands.

Leptospirosis is caused by Leptospira bacteria. The bacteria are spiral or corkscrew-shaped and infection can occur through the skin or mucous membranes (including gums and eyes). These bacteria can survive for months in warm moist environments such as stagnant waters, ponds, and areas prone to flooding. Rodents can spread the disease through their urine and continue to contaminate the environment. It is thought the disease has appeared in Sydney through increased numbers of rats emerging due to construction work in the city.

The University of Sydney Veterinary Faculty is currently researching which strain(s) is/are involved in this outbreak and pinpoint the source of the infection.

If the bacteria are in the environment, prevention can be quite difficult. However, avoid having your dog(s) come into contact with rodents, drink from puddles, or swim in stagnant water holes and ponds.

Why is this important to people/dogs in the Southern Highlands?

Many of our clients work and live in both the Southern Highlands and in Sydney.

If this is you, it is therefore possible that your dog COULD come into contact with this nasty disease whilst in Sydney.

The other important factor is rats and mice. With the huge rodent outbreak currently affecting almost every home in the Southern Highlands, the risk of the disease spreading has become significant.

Hence, the need to consider vaccination for your dog.

Risk for dogs

Dogs in our area are not routinely vaccinated for Leptospirosis, as we don’t commonly see this disease, but a vaccine is available.

Considering this is such a lethal disease for our dogs, with a real risk of the bacteria being spread to people as well, we recommend vaccinating your dog if it is at risk of contracting the disease.

Two vaccinations, given 2-4 weeks apart are needed to protect your dog, as they have not received routine prior vaccinations for this disease.

Until Fri, 24 June 2022 we are holding a ‘vaccine clinic’. To help everyone out, we are going to carry out vaccination at ‘cost’. This means that your dog can receive the two vaccination doses for a total investment of $55.

Remember that these doses need to be given about 2-4 weeks apart.

If you would like to have your dog vaccinated against Leptospirosis, please contact our friendly team at HIGHlands Veterinary Hospital (4872 1144).

Symptoms of the disease can include:

  • Nonspecific clinical signs like lethargy, not eating, vomiting and diarrhoea.
    • Fever, shivering, dehydration.
    • Drinking and urinating a lot, blood in the urine, in some cases no urine production at all.
    • Bruising in skin.
    • Pale or yellow gums.
    • Sore muscles, stiffness, weakness.

Dogs can go downhill very rapidly indeed!

NSW Health warns that Leptospirosis in people can frequently be confused for the flu in the early stages.

Risk for Humans

People should make sure to pay extra attention to hygiene, such as hand washing and avoiding having food scraps around that attract rodents – as the bacteria can cause serious disease in people as well.

If you suspect your dog has come down with this disease, be extra careful to wear gloves, protect eyes and mouth, and seek veterinary attention as soon as possible.

In humans, symptoms include: fever, headache, vomiting and red eyes. In severe cases, it can lead to kidney failure, liver failure and jaundice, haemorrhages and meningitis (inflammation of the brain).

If you have any concerns, questions, or would like to have your dog vaccinated against Leptospirosis, please contact our friendly team at HIGHlands Veterinary Hospital (4872 1144).

Dr Diederik Gelderman (BVSc, MVS)