As a dog owner, I try to know about everything that can harm my dog. But this is a disease I've never heard of.

The Slaton Animal Hospital has confirmed a case of leptospirosis in a dog. The dog was a middle-aged large breed dog from Lynn County.

What is Leptospirosis?

Lepto is a disease that can affect humans and animals. Dogs can become infected through contact with infected urine or water contaminated with infected urine.

The hospital says: "Canine leptospirosis is not commonly diagnosed in our area. This is typically found in areas with high amounts of rainfall (not West Texas and this patient was diagnosed during the drought). Because of this, many veterinary clinics in our area do not carry the vaccine or routinely recommend it, which was true for us prior to this case. The AVMA lists it as a non-core vaccine; meaning it is only recommended on a case-by-case basis."

Leptospirosis is zoonotic. This means it has the potential to transfer and cause illness in humans. Human cases are rare, but can happen. People who are at risk normally get infected by swimming in contaminated lakes or rivers.

What are the signs and symptoms of Leptospirosis?

Signs to look for according to the Slaton Animal Hospital are "patient was lethargic, vomiting had weakness and anorexia. Recent history of being around cattle, drinking/swimming in water troughs, and eating skunks. Any or all of these things could have caused the exposure."

Best protection from Leptospirosis?

You can get your dogs vaccinated for it. The Slaton Animal Hospital will now carry the vaccine for those dogs with a high risk of exposure. This would include dogs who run with cattle, go swimming in ponds and lakes or are traveling to areas with higher case rates. Even backyard dogs are at risk. The vaccines are normally two rounds and are required initially 3-4 weeks apart, followed by an annual booster.

Animals who recover from leptospirosis can still be contagious for months. Ask your vet what they think is best for your dog if you aren't sure but this is a great thing to keep an eye out for.

More information on leptospirosis is available from the CDC and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).

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To prepare yourself for a potential incident, always keep your vet's phone number handy, along with an after-hours clinic you can call in an emergency. The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center also has a hotline you can call at (888) 426-4435 for advice.

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