Quite a stir has been blown up in Murphy’s local community. A young dog has recently become very ill and needed hospitalisation. Test showed it was suffering from leptospirosis, an illness that can be fatal if untreated, especially in young unvaccinated dogs. Severe kidney and liver damage can be caused but symptoms, including diarrhoea and vomiting, will nearly always been seen first. Your pet may suffer other symptoms including fever and joint pains but these will be harder to spot. The good news is risk can be dramatically reduced by giving your dog the right routine injections. This is what Alan’s vet (Toachim House at Faversham) said when asked about Murphy’s inoculations:
“I can understand why you are worried. You will be pleased to know that Murphy has had the Lepto vaccination included in his routine injections. Just last year we upgraded our patients to the (L4 vaccine) this was a new vaccine available which covered a new strain of Leptospirosis. There is certainly no more you can do to ensure Murphy is safe in regards to vaccines.”
Perhaps obviously, when a case is identified it is best to avoid the source where possible. In the local case no definite infected water has been found but much speculation is abroad about a pond at one of Murphy’s favourite walking locations. Leptospirosis is mostly spread by rat urine but infected dogs and other mammals can pass it on too. Stagnant water provides great opportunity for the organisms to concentrate. Ponds, canals, drainage ditches (dykes), etc. are especially high risk in summer months so it is important to keep your best friend out of them if rats are known to be around. If your dog is a swimmer this can be tough. Luckily, Murphy would walk round a puddle so there’s little danger of him jumping in – but he will always drink if he’s hot. He won’t be drinking from any ponds for a while! He always has fresh water to drink on a long walk – but still prefers a ‘natural’ source when possible (probably because of all the chemicals we humans have to drink!). With this is mind he is encouraged to drink from running streams whenever possible.
If you think you’ve spotted the symptoms of leptospirosis don’t delay, get your dog to the vet. This is important for your canine pal as early treatment often provides a cure. It’s important to you too as humans can contract the illness too (Weil’s Disease).
Other health risks from stagnant water include cryptosporidium and giardiasis and these can be passed to owners by their pets. As far as we know these can’t be prevented by inoculation.
Blue-green algae bloom is another worry in ‘fresh’ water sources. The risk is highest in summer when water levels are low. Green water is an indicator even if clumps of algae aren’t obvious. The blooms – dying algae – give off toxins and these can be fatal if ingested by your dog. Drinking from water containing the toxins presents the highest danger but just licking fur after a swim can be enough. No swimming in or drinking from green water or where algae is evident!
Murphy isn’t interested in the sea but some of his doggie pals love a swim and there’s plenty of opportunity at Whitstable with its dog friendly beaches. One might think there are no problems with a therapeutic seawater bathe but, sadly, even that can not be guaranteed. We probably all know drinking salt water is not good for us (‘water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink’). This is equally true for dogs. DogPeople has some experience of the problems. Hamish would occasionally drink from rock pools and often had diarrhoea as a result. Lottie has a passion for whelk egg cases. She regularly found them on the beach, especially at the end of winter after stormy weather. They no doubt smell good and taste fishy but are full of sea water – Lottie had the same after-effects as Hamish! Soft toys repeatedly thrown in to the sea for your keen canine servant to retrieve can also result in too much sea water ingestion and this may make it difficult to ‘scoop’ later.
There’s lots of fun to be had with water and your dog needs to drink. Just be aware of the risks and take car when you need to; you know your pal will do whatever you ask if he’s a natural retriever and he may not stick to safe drinking water especially when hot and thirsty.