The latest from UVTHS’ canine medicine specialist, Dr Christine Griebsch

20th August 2019

Unfortunately another dog has died from Leptospirosis at our hospital on the 10th of August. The case was confirmed as a definite positive last week and we were able to identify serovar Copenhageni as the strain of Leptospira infecting this dog. Copenhageni is the serovar that we are currently vaccinating dogs for. This case brings the case number up to 7 confirmed cases. Two cases were detected last year and there have been five cases since May this year. Unfortunately all of these dogs have died or required euthanasia due to a poor prognosis. Cases were all confined to Surry Hills, Darlinghurst, Redfern and Glebe.

Reports of cases from other areas are false.

Infection can occur via intact mucus membranes (mouth, nose and eyes) and abraded skin through contact with soil, water or food that have been contaminated with infected rodent urine. Bite wounds from infected rodents and ingestion of infected rodent tissue can also transmit infection. Clinical signs of Leptospirosis can be very vague initially such as lack of appetite, lethargy, vomiting and diarrhea. Ultimately this can progress to acute kidney failure and liver disease causing jaundice (yellow discoloration of the skin). Therefore, if your dog has been walked in areas of risk or hunts rodents and becomes unwell please seek immediate veterinary attention.

The current recommendation is to vaccinate dogs living in areas within a 3km radius around Surry Hills, dogs that go for walks in this area and dogs living in the wider inner west that are known “ratters”. Two vaccines need to be given 2-4 weeks apart. The current vaccine we are using is covering serovar Copenhageni only. So far we have been able to identify this serovar as the infecting serovar in 2 of the cases and it is unknown if more serovars are involved.

Researchers at The University of Sydney are working hard to get further information, investigating all new cases and trying to gather data about the general exposure (seroprevalence) to Leptospira in the Sydney dog population. Therefore we ask all dog owners to please help by allowing your dogs to participate in our research. If you want to help please ask your veterinarian to take a blood and urine sample from your dog before vaccination against Leptospirosis and fill out a questionnaire. All veterinarians in the Sydney area should have received relevant forms.

Please also take care of yourself! While no cases of human Leptospirosis have been linked to the current outbreak in dogs, Leptospirosis can affect humans as well! Healthy dogs and cats can shed Leptospira in their urine and are a potential source of infection. Therefore, please avoid contact with urine from your pets, wash your hands after patting them especially before you eat, avoid contact with stagnant water in affected areas and make sure to wash your fruits and vegetables before consuming them.