Potentially Fatal Bacteria Affecting Dogs In South Florida

Dogs can contract leptospirosis by drinking contaminated water — or even eating grass.

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Dogs can contract the bacteria through contaminated water (and so can humans). Via garyt70/Flickr
Dogs can contract the bacteria through contaminated water (and so can humans). Via garyt70/Flickr

South Florida dog owners might want to think twice before letting their pets play in local canals or other waterways.

A deadly disease that can sicken — or even kill — dogs is on the rise in the area, and veterinarians are warning humans that they could be at risk, too, Fox 4-WFTX in Cape Coral, Florida, reports.

Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that is spread through the urine and saliva of raccoons, rats and other rodents. When these infected animals urinate into canals, lakes or other bodies of water (or even in your front yard), the bacteria that cause the disease can survive there for weeks or months.

“It could have been a raccoon peed in your backyard two and a half weeks ago, and then your pet decides to go out and eat a little grass and comes up with a leptospirosis infection,” Dr. Justin Kerr told Fox 4.

Dogs also could contract the disease by drinking, swimming or walking through contaminated water, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Leptospirosis can be spread through the urine of raccoons, rats and other wildlife. Via Michael Scheltgen/Flickr

Leptospirosis can be spread through the urine of raccoons, rats and other wildlife. Via Michael Scheltgen/Flickr

The symptoms of leptospirosis include vomiting, diarrhea and not being interested in food, WPTV reports. If your dog displays these symptoms, it is important that he receives medical attention, as leptospirosis could lead to kidney or liver failure and even death, if left untreated. There is a vaccine available.

And if your dog is diagnosed with leptospirosis, you need to call your own doctor as well. Diarrhea and vomiting are amongst the symptoms in humans, as are a high fever, chills, muscle aches, red eyes and jaundice, according to the CDC.

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