By Shannon Royster
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Veterinarians are warning pet owners about a potentially life-threatening disease that can infect both humans and their pets.
The disease is Leptospirosis and although it's not new, vets across the country, including those in Middle Tennessee, said it's a growing problem.
This dangerous bacterial infection can lead to kidney and liver failure and even death.
Pet owner Hillary Smith loves taking her two-year-old Yorkie Chihuahua-mix, Fitzgerald on long walks. Smith said her dog loves to explore, but all that exploring according to Dr. Craig Prior, could lead to a deadly bacterial infection called Leptospirosis - if you're not taking care of your pet.
"A lot of times when you see a spike in a disease like this it's because animals are getting less vaccines," said Dr. Prior with the Murphy Road Animal Hospital.
Dr. Prior said that's exactly what's happening nationwide. It spreads by contact with another animal's urine or body fluids.
"If you regularly go to the dog park, your dog should be fully vaccinated including against Leptospirosis," said Dr. Prior. "Your dog should be on a monthly heartworm parasite prevention as well."
Your pet can even get the deadly disease by sniffing an infected animal's urine, so Dr. Prior said you need to recognize the potentially life-threatening signs associated with the disease.
"The infection in the early stages causes fever, lethargy, and joint pain; and sometimes you get bleeding," he said. "That lasts about a week and then it moves to their kidneys."
Dr. Prior said it causes acute kidney failure in about 90 percent of animals infected with it and possibly liver failure as well.
"The biggest risk though, is it's zoonotic and a zoonotic disease is one that is transferred to an animal to a human," said Dr. Prior.
Allowing an infected pet to lick you or cleaning up infected urine without gloves could potentially lead to the disease, but it is treatable if caught early and preventable.
This infection is only preventable by getting a Lepto vaccine and is only strongly recommended, It is not a part of your pets required core vaccinations.
So you need to talk to your vet to make sure your pet is protected.