“21 cases of Leptospirosis in Hong Kong has been confirmed so far while 10 cases were made aware and diagnosed at our laboratory last year” shared by Dr Fraser Hill, Registered Specialist Anatomic Pathology Director at CityU Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory. The situation is quite alarming to dog owners, as some affected dogs unfortunately resulted in death. In most Leptospirosis, the affected dogs have had a history of playing in and drinking fresh water from streams.
Besides CityU Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory which has received infected samples from 10 clinics throughout Hong Kong for further investigation, we’ve also talked to Animal Emergency Centre to get more insight on how to protect your dogs from contracting this fatal disease.
Don’t assume fresh running water is safe. It is not.
Summertime is a high season for Leptospirosis. This bacteria-like organism, Leptospirosis, is usually spread by rat urine. Urine of infected rats, mice and other wild animals can be washed down into streams and waterways in, for example, Mid-Levels, Pokfulam, Sai Kung and many other places where running water goes and stagnant water stays. We are sometimes under the impression that fresh running water from streams in running trails and country parks is safe for dogs to drink, now we know it’s not.
Once liver and kidney damage is done, most dogs can’t recover from it
It usually results in liver and kidney failure. Damage on organs only gets worse and it’s not reversible, which could result in death in a matter of two days! Good news is that early diagnosis and treatment can save lives. This bacteria can in fact be killed fairly quickly with antibiotics. Then how to catch it early? We have to pay close attention to early signs which are innocuous, sometimes vomiting and diarrhoea after a walk outside.
How about prevention?
Most dogs take the standard annual DHPPiL (G6) vaccine each year but it’s completely ineffective against the local Leptospirosis. Another vaccine available in Hong Kong is called Letovax 4 which protects against 4 strains (types) of Leptospirosis, namely Leptospira canicola, Leptospira grippotyphosa, Leptospira icterohaemorrhagiae and Leptospira pomona. This year, the team at CityU Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, with the help of CityU Jockey Club College of Veterinary Medicine and Life Sciences, is conducting research to identify the serogroup (type) of leptospirosis responsible. Molecular testing have been performed on some confirmed cases in Hong Kong, and so far everything which has been tested is Leptospira Hebdomadis. In other words, even if the affected dogs took Letovax 4 vaccine, they would have still unfortunately contracted this local Leptospirosis.
So, the most effective preventive measure currently is to teach your puppies not to drink from streams and keep your dogs on a leash around watercourses if they are prone to drinking and playing in them. Tell your helpers and people responsible for walking your dogs about it, so they know how to take care of your dogs! At sea and on beaches are different because it’s open water, even if infected urine ends up there, it would be very diluted to pose danger.
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