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New Jersey hospital warns pet owners following Leptospirosis outbreak

Both pet owners and their pets are at risk to contract the disease

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New Jersey’s NorthStar VETS emergency and specialty hospital has issued a warning for local pet owners following an increase in the number of Leptospirosis cases treated at the hospital and other clinics in the New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania areas.

“We want pet parents to be aware of Leptospirosis and to consider vaccinating their at-risk pets to help prevent spread of the disease,” said Steven Berkowitz, DVM, emergency and critical care veterinarian at NorthStar VETS. “Each patient should be assessed by their family veterinarian.”

Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease, meaning owners are also at risk and can contract the infection from their pet. Owners with pets who have Leptospirosis are urged to contact a health-care provider and inform them, especially if they are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or immunosuppressed for any reason.

The disease is most commonly spread through contact with infected urine and either the mucus membranes (lips, mouth, nose, eyes) or an open wound. Leptospira bacteria have been found in sitting water, including old tires or toys left outside. The bacterium is endemic worldwide in wild mice and rats, who are usually the source of the infection.

Leptospirosis is a curable disease, but necessitates long-term antibiotics and other supportive care, otherwise it can be fatal to both owners and pets.

An animal vaccine for the disease is available. Owners should contact a family veterinarian to see if it is recommended for their pet.

Signs and symptoms of Leptospirosis:

  • General malaise
  • Excessive drinking and urinating
  • Waxing/waning fever
  • Vomiting or loss of appetite
  • Icterus, which is yellowing of the gums, skin, and whites of the eyes
  • Excessive bleeding or bruising
  • Kidney and/or liver failure


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