There is currently (October 2017) an increase of leptospirosis in dogs occurring in the Halifax Regional Municipality.
Recognizing that pet owners across the province may have questions, and given the possibility that dogs may be visiting HRM, we would like to provide you with the following information to help in your practice.
What is leptospirosis?
Leptospirosis is a disease caused by the bacteria Leptospira. It is carried by many wild and domestic animals, including rodents, dogs, cows, pigs, horses and sheep. It is most commonly found in tropical climates.
How are the bacteria transmitted to humans?
The bacteria are spread through direct contact with urine from an infected animal or by contact with water, soil or food contaminated by urine from infected animals. The bacteria enter through the skin, usually cuts or scratches, or through the nose, mouth, or eyes.
What is the risk to humans?
Even though there is an increase in cases of leptospirosis in dogs in the Halifax area, the risk to humans remains low. This risk can be further reduced by taking the following steps:
- Consult a veterinarian if a pet develops the symptoms of leptospirosis.
- Dog owners should discuss vaccination of their pet with their veterinarian.
- Wash your hands frequently with soap under warm running water for at least 20 seconds after petting or handling animals and especially when cleaning up urine or animal waste.
- When cleaning up animal waste for any animal that appears ill, wear rubber gloves and wash your hands thoroughly afterwards.
- Pregnant or breast-feeding women, the elderly, young children and people with weakened immune systems should avoid cleaning up urine and animal wastes of sick animals.
- Avoid letting babies or toddlers crawl or play in areas of the yard where there may be fresh urine.
- Do not leave food or water outside where it can attract wildlife
What should people do if their pet has been diagnosed with leptospirosis?
If your pet has been diagnosed with leptospirosis then it is important to practice good hand washing after touching your pet and to wear gloves if you might come into contact with your pet’s urine or other body fluids.
As long as you are feeling well there is NO NEED to seek medical attention.
If you develop symptoms (see below) see a health care provider or call 811 for health advice from a registered nurse.
What are the symptoms of leptospirosis in humans?
Symptoms in humans appear 2 to 30 days after contact with the bacteria. Common symptoms may include fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle pain, and skin rashes. In rare cases, symptoms may worsen to include jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), kidney and/or liver failure, inflammation of the heart muscle and meningitis.