Fresno health officials warn of leptospirosis outbreak among dogs

Amanda Venegas Image
Tuesday, July 14, 2015
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Nine dogs have been infected recently with leptospirosis, and the latest case came from Woodward Dog Park.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Local health officials and pet owners are on alert after a bacteria outbreak among dogs in Fresno. Nine dogs have been infected recently with leptospirosis, and the latest case came from Woodward Dog Park. We're learning it can be transmitted to humans.

Dogs are beating the summer blues by playing at Woodward Park's dog park. But health officials are now warning dog owners this fun atmosphere could house a bacteria called leptospirosis.

"This is the first time I hear of this and it's kind of scary," said Noe Garcia, a pet owner. Garcia was surprised to hear nine dogs had gotten the bacteria and had also visited the El Capitan and Woodpark dog parks.

"They should be very concerned," said Dr. Chris Dobbins with Fresno Pet ER. "What these animals do when they go to dog parks is urinate and defecate, and everybody is sniffing and licking, and that's how this is transmitted."

Dobbins says his own office has treated one case where lepto affected a dog's kidneys and liver. He says there isn't one specific symptom.

"It could be vomiting, it could be diarrhea, it could be not wanting to eat, lethargy, fever, which unless you're taking their temperature, you wouldn't know," said Dobbins.

And most concerning: the disease can be transferred from dog to human.

"But you know they lick themselves, so the mouth is certainly a place of contact. You don't want to come home from work and get a kiss from your dog, and you could be potentially having problems. So in humans it has flu-like symptoms," said Dobbins.

A standard set of vaccinations may not protect your dog, so your pup may need the vaccine. The Central California SPCA is also gearing up to prevent the spread.

"Having dogs of course, it's a concern, so for owners out there we offer the lepto vaccine, and its just $6 here at the CCSPCA," said Walter Salvari with the CCSPCA.

As for dog owners, some say a day at the park may not be worth it -- at least for now.

"I think we'll actually go take her and get that shot. If it will help her and potentially help keep us from getting it, then it's worth it," said Toni Marchini, a pet owner.

During the outbreak, experts are warning owners to keep a close eye on their dog's health and their own.

You can call your veterinarian to get more information about whether your dog needs this vaccine. The SPCA is urging pet owners to make appointments for the shot.