September 26, 2019

Hiking, camping, or otherwise enjoying the great outdoors in the Pacific Northwest can put you and your dog at risk for a contagious bacterial disease called leptospirosis.

You or your dog may contract the disease by exposure to fresh water sources (streams, lakes, ponds, and areas of standing water) contaminated with the urine of infected deer, raccoons, or other wild animals. Even standing water or damp, shady areas in your own backyard can be sources of the bacteria shed by raccoons, possums, or rodents.

Newly emerging strains of this bacterium are increasingly dangerous, attacking the kidneys, liver, and joints with potentially devastating results. Prompt diagnosis and treatment is necessary to prevent permanent kidney damage.

If your lifestyle leads you or your dog into areas that may be contaminated, we offer a new vaccine which can prevent infection by most strains and has been shown to cause fewer reactions than previous vaccines. Unfortunately, there is still one common strain of the bacteria against which no vaccine offers protection.

If your dog exhibits symptoms of lethargy, lameness, vomiting, or lack of appetite, they should be seen by a veterinarian immediately—even if they have been previously vaccinated. Once infected, your dog is highly contagious. Take the utmost care when handling your pet and reduce exposure to their urine.

With increased awareness and proper precautions, you and your dog can again enjoy the great natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest.

For more information about the symptoms of leptospirosis in humans, please see the Center for Disease Control’s list of frequently asked questions.

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