A vet has issued an urgent warning as two dogs visiting the same Sydney park have caught an unusual and dangerous infection in the same month.
Two dogs from Surry Hills have been diagnosed with Leptospirosis in the past month, an infection caused by the Leptospira bacteria.
The potentially deadly infection is often caused by contaminated rodent urine in water or wet soil in poorly drained areas.
The infection is zoonotic, meaning it can jump between animals and humans, and has the ability to cause organ failure and death.
The Facebook Post, from Potts Point Vet, warned that the two dogs that were infected were playing in a muddy area in the same park, in an affluent inner city Sydney suburb, where the council has struggled to control flourishing rat colonies in nearby neighbourhoods.
“Two cases of Leptospirosis have been diagnosed in the past month in Surry Hills,” the Potts Point Vet wrote. “Both dogs only frequented one park, Ward Park on Devonshire Street.”
The disease presents in animals with general sickness symptoms, including a lack of appetite, a reluctance to move, fever and chills. In more severe cases, pet owners might see shivering, weakness, increased thirst and urination, vomiting and diarrhoea, possibly with blood.
“These organisms prefer warm, moist, alkaline environments and are uncommon in Sydney,” the vet warned.
“Leptospira can remain in the environment through infection of reservoir hosts, most commonly rats, which then pass the organisms in their urine.”
Because the disease is zoonotic, vets and pet owners are at risk of contracting the disease, and extreme caution needs to be exercised around animals at risk of infection of this disease.
The disease can survive for long periods of time in muddy waters, puddles, ditches or wet soil. Domestic cats, dogs or other pets are at risk of contracting the disease by touching waters contaminated with diseased rat or mouse urine.
“Environmental flooding (such as what has happened in Surry Hills due to extensive ground disturbance due to the light rail project) can saturate the soil and prevent evaporation of urine and the presence of stagnant or slow-moving water can prolong survival of organisms in surface water.
“It has been suggested that the light rail building works in Surry Hills has interfered with some underground pipes, forcing rats and or contaminated water to the surface of parkland,” the vet wrote online.
News.com.au is not suggesting Sydney Light Rail works have caused leptospirosis contamination of parkland in Sydney.
“Leptospira can remain viable for months in moist environments under optimal conditions. Peak incidence in dogs in Leptospira infected areas often follows periods of heavy rainfall or flooding.
Treatment for the infection in animals depends on how severe the animal’s case has become.
Rehydration can be undertaken with gastric tubes to combat fluid loss from vomiting, and blood transfusions can be used to combat the effects of haemorrhaging. Antibiotics are chosen depending on the level of infection.
Animals can also experience symptoms related to kidney failure, including rashes, high fever, jaundice, (yellowing of the skin and eyes), sore muscles and joints and sore throat.
Outcomes are generally good unless the animal has started to experience organ failure. If organ failure progresses, death is possible.
A raspberry farm in northern NSW last year experienced the largest known outbreak of leptospirosis in Australia, with 84 suspected cases, and 50 confirmed, over a five month period from April to September.
The outbreak was attributed to scratches from raspberry picking, exposure to contaminated water, and rodents on the farm.
Nobody was seriously injured from the infections.