The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) wants all dog owners to be aware of a very serious infection of dogs, Leptospirosis, which has been detected in the ACT with a dog dying recently.

It follows the detection of a number of cases in Sydney, Newcastle and the NSW South Coast where many of the infected dogs have not survived.

Unfortunately, the dog, who lived with its owner in Queanbeyan, was unable to be saved because, despite appropriate treatment, it is often too late to reverse the severe damage the disease causes.

This bacterial disease affects the liver, kidneys, and sometimes the respiratory system and brain.

Common symptoms may in- clude vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, jaundice, inappetence, changed frequency of urination and nosebleeds. Most dogs with leptospirosis develop symptoms within 4 to 12 days of exposure, which can progress rapidly. Leptospira is also a serious zoonotic agent, meaning that it can also be contracted by humans, where it may cause severe disease.

Dogs can contract the disease when playing in or drinking contaminated water such as ponds and puddles. The bacterium is most commonly spread through contact with soil, water or vegetation that has been contaminated with urine from infected animals, commonly rats and mice.

The AVA is recommending that owners get their dogs vaccinated against the disease in light of the recent outbreaks.

“Vaccination offers protection against Leptospirosis,” said Dr Michael Hayward, President of the Australian Veterinary Association ACT Division.

“Vaccination, combined with preventing dogs from swimming or playing in lakes, ponds, or other sources of stagnant water (which could be contaminated), can help minimise the risk of Leptospirosis infection,” said Dr Hayward.

Vaccination against leptospirosis is available and can be offered either as a standalone or in addition to your dog’s annual vaccinations. A booster is required one month after the first dose.

Like many vaccines, leptospirosis immunisation offers good protection but cannot 100 per cent guarantee your dog does not become infected. Vaccinating and reducing sources of environmental contact are crucial factors in protecting our pets from this life-threatening disease.

Contact the Yass Valley Veterinary on (02) 6226 4444 to confirm whether your dog’s vaccinations are up to date or to get more information about vaccinating your dog for a variety of deadly diseases, including Leptospirosis.

Brianna O’Rourke