Over the years I have spoken and written so much about this disease that at one time my friends used to call me Dr Lepto.

The reason for delivering the fire and brimstone message is that this infectious disease is very prevalent in Guyana, and not only in dogs. This is a disease that affects humans (and many other species) as well.

 On one of the Caribbean islands, a study on the incidence of Leptospirosis was carried out on sugar cane workers. It was amazing how high the infection rate turned out to be. Rats carry the disease; rats inhabit the sugar cane fields… you see the connection.

 Perhaps we should insist that our public health colleagues carry out a survey among not only our sugar cane workers, but also on the inhabitants of our ghettos where rats abound.
Leptospirosis is a disease which is caused by bacteria (quite unlike Distemper and Hepatitis and Kennel Cough which all have a viral origin).

 There are several types (serovars) of Leptospira germs, but the majority of cases in dogs are attributable, more or less, to a few types. Dogs of any age can be infected and affected.
The disease in dogs is often a water-borne disease. Rats are considered the main reservoir and the germ is shed in their urine and saliva. Usually, leftover food in the dog’s bowl is contaminated by the rat’s saliva and/or urine as the rat eats the residual food, and the dog then comes back and eats from the contaminated bowl. In other words, I am saying that the infected urine or saliva of the rat can contaminate the animal’s food/water. The dog would then ingest the germs.

The germ can also enter the animal’s body through the skin or if the urine splashes into the dog’s mouth or eyes.
If an animal is infected, it may not show any symptoms at all, or the symptoms could be mild. It may then shed the Leptospira germ for months, even years.
On the other hand, the symptoms of Leptospirosis can be quite dramatic:
♣ Jaundice (yellowing of the eyes, ears, underbelly, etc).

♣ Fever (103°F – 105°F) at the beginning. (Later there is actually a drop in body temperature to as low as 95°F).
♣ Lethargy/weakness.
♣ Loss of appetite/swallowing is difficult.
♣ Diarrhoea (sometimes with blood).
♣ Vomiting (sometimes with blood).
♣ Dehydration.
♣ Mild conjunctivitis (inflammation on the surface of the eyeball).
♣ Laboured breathing.
♣ Increase in water intake (thirst)
♣ Pain in the lumbar region/abdomen.
♣ Spot bleeding in the mouth
♣ Muscular tremors (twitching) – in the advanced stage of the disease.
♣ Frequent urination; urine has deep yellow colour.
♣ Breath smells of urine.

Treatment
The therapy regime will relate to the symptoms present. For example, if the animal is dehydrated, one must try to re-hydrate it. Or, if the animal is having diarrhoea, we must try to contain the loose bowels.
Prevention
♣ Rat control
♣ Do not leave left-over food/water
    overnight
♣ Vaccinate

NB: The vaccine manufacturers have been able to establish that the two types of Leptospira germ that over the past decades, were involved in the disease are no longer the main culprits. Two other types of Leptospia are now considered to be the primary precipitators of the ailment. Luckily, the manufacturers have produced a new vaccine that contains both the old two Leptospira types as well as the new two. Make sure that your vet vaccinates your puppy/adult dog with the vaccine that will ensure protection against the major types of Leptospira germs capable of infecting dogs.

Have a pleasant week!
Please implement disease preventative measures (vaccinations, routine dewormings, monthly anti-Heartworm medication, etc) and adopt-a-pet from the GSPCA’s Animal Clinic and Shelter at Robb Street and Orange Walk, if you have the wherewithal to care well for the animals. Do not stray your unwanted pets, take them to the GSPCA’s Clinic and Shelter instead. If you see anyone being cruel to an animal, or if you need any technical information, please get in touch with the Clinic and Shelter by calling 226-4237.

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