Veterinarians warn pet owners about dangerous bacterial infection

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - With summer quickly approaching, families are beginning to make more outdoor plans, and with those plans comes risks for themselves and their pets.

Dr. Elizabeth Scholl Irizarry, an associate veterinarian at Banfield Pet Hospital, said an increase in time outside increases exposure to a bacteria called Leptospirosis. The bacteria is carried by small mammals like raccoons, skunks and possums and is released in the urine and feces of those animals.

Dr. Irizarry said humans and other animals become exposed to the bacteria when they ingest it, usually by coming into contact with water or dirt where the bacteria was spread.

"Water areas is typically what we tell our clients," Irizarry said. "They go to lakes or ponds where these wild animals have contaminated the water."

Leptospirosis is now the number one infectious cause of kidney failure in dogs, and it is also linked to liver disease. Dr. Irizarry said symptoms of Leptospirosis, like vomiting and diarrhea, often mimic those of other issues. Once a dog has the infection, depending on what stage it's caught, it can be difficult to treat.

"Most of the time, it's supportive care," Irizarry said. "We'll keep with hospitalized with IV fluids and antibiotics, but sometimes there is irreversible damage."

She recommends regular vaccinations for preventative care.

Leptospirosis can also be contracted by humans who are exposed to the bacteria, the same way animals are. She said small children are the most at risk.

"It's a much bigger problem in the young ones, the ones who don't have a strong immunity," Irizarry said. "Think about your children and your puppies."

She said the bacteria, like in animals, can cause damage to humans' liver and kidneys. She said parents should make sure their families are washing their hands frequently, especially when doing yard work, cleaning up after pets or spending time in bodies of water. She also said to cover up sandboxes and any other area where small creatures may lurk at night.

For more information on Leptospirosis, you can go to Banfield Pet Hospital's website.

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