Friday, March 20, 2015

But The Squirrels Are So Cute!

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Last month, we came face to face with a previously thought to be uncommon infection in urban areas known as leptospirosis.  This is a bacterial infection carried by urban wildlife (squirrels, raccoons and other rodents), or grazing cattle, in their urine.  It doesnt harm these critters but can cause serious kidney and liver problems in dogs and people.  Apparently, the long dry summer followed by heavy concentrated rains in December allowed for a perfect storm so to speak, and this bacteria was able to follow the rainfall into standing pools and drainage areas.  When dogs drink or walk through these areas (in many cases our own yards after a heavy rainstorm), they can become exposed to the organism.  It causes acute kidney failure to start with, but what owners of dogs that are infected notice is their dog misses a meal, and then two and maybe three

How many times has your dog missed a meal or two and then felt better in 24 hours?  Mine have.  Sometimes it isnt that easy though.  One such Border Collie, a young 5 year old neutered male named Sammy, recently experienced just that.

Sammy was always a little picky about his food, but when he didnt eat for the second day, his owners became concerned.  He had vomited once, then just stopped. He seemed especially sluggish too, but had no fever.  He didnt act painful or sore, just seemed depressed.  A routine blood test alerted us that his kidney function tests were very elevated - more than one would expect with dehydration, although he was certainly dehydrated.  After receiving a liter of fluids and obtaining some urine, it became clear that his kidneys were not acting normally, and the diagnosis of leptospirosis was considered.  He did not have a yard that had standing water, but he had been to the dog park on occasion, and had killed a skunk a week earlier.  We ran the screening test and fortunately the diagnosis was made quickly. 
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Leptospirosis usually responds well to antibiotics if they can be administered before permanent damage is done, and if aggressive diuresis is started to keep the kidneys from shutting down.  In Sammys case, that meant aggressive IV fluid therapy and hospitalization for three days.  Since he wasnt eating to begin with, we also had to give him medication to stimulate his appetite, prevent him from vomiting, treat the acid build up due to the kidney problems, and the antibiotics to treat the infection.  Despite all of this, his liver also started to become affected by the organism.  In some cases, these dogs do not recover despite our best efforts, and the recovery period can take weeks to months.  Luckily for Sammy, he started to turn the corner after about 1 week and now, 1 month later, he is gaining weight back and feeling like a normal active 5 year old Border Collie again!

To learn more about leptospirosis, visit this website:

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