Multiple cases of the disease leptospirosis, which can be deadly to both pets and humans, have been found in dogs across Boston, and veterinarians are urging pet owners to vaccinate their pets.
Leptospirosis is a bacteria typically spread through infected animals’ urine. Pets and people can get the disease through contact with the urine or contaminated water or soil, the Animal Rescue League of Boston said on Facebook.
Dogs commonly contract the disease from swimming in or drinking stagnant water contaminated by infected wildlife, the ARL said.
“The bacteria can enter the body through skin or mucous membranes (eyes, nose, or mouth), especially if the skin is broken from a cut or scratch,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. “Infected wild and domestic animals may continue to excrete the bacteria into the environment continuously or every once in a while for a few months up to several years.”
The rodent population is most responsible for spreading the disease in cities like Boston, contaminating parks and fountains, the ARL added.
Common symptoms include fever, increased thirst and urination, vomiting, diarrhea, anorexia, and weakness, the ARL said.
The time between contact with the contaminated source and becoming sick for animals and humans is usually two days to a month, the CDC said. Animals may not show symptoms at all, they added, but younger animals are usually more seriously affected than older ones.
A vaccine is available that can help prevent the disease for up to 12 months, the ARL said, but it does not provide 100% protection because there are several strains of the disease, according to the CDC.
The ARL is encouraging all pet owners to talk with their veterinarians about the vaccine and other prevention options.