In the past seven months, there have been 12 cases of dogs with leptospirosis at the University of Florida’s Small Animal Hospital, compared to a typical rate of zero to one per year.
This cluster of cases indicates an environmental origin like heavy rain causing an increase in bacteria, according to David Blaney, a medical epidemiologist for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Bacterial Special Pathogens Branch.
Leptospirosis, or lepto, can infect both humans and animals. The bacteria can be transmitted either between hosts or through the environment. It can enter the body through worn or saturated skin that has been in water for a long time.
Its symptoms include vomiting, a lack of appetite, fever and a sore stomach.
Pets that spend a lot of time outside, especially those likely to be exposed to wild animals, are at a higher risk than indoor pets. Untreated pets can develop serious and fatal diseases as a result, according to UF Health and Oaks Veterinary Hospital.
Sarah Carey, the spokeswoman for UF’s College of Veterinary Medicine, said cases have come in from all over the state, as opposed to a centralized location. The hospital is still recommending owners to get their pets vaccinated.
Dr. Lance Baltzley, a veterinarian at Newberry Animal Hospital, said the hospital’s clinics have not seen any confirmed cases of leptospirosis. However, he said most of his clients have not been able to afford the leptospirosis test fee.
At Oaks Veterinary Hospital, leptospirosis vaccines cost about $35 , and a booster administered three to four weeks after the initial shot costs an additional $35. The vaccine is good for a year, and future vaccinations do not require the booster.
Baltzley said he has seen less than five confirmed cases in the past five years. Even if the leptospirosis is not confirmed, pets may still be given antibiotics to combat any of the symptoms.
Leptospirosis is found in the wild raccoon and skunk populations, Baltzley said. An infected rodent’s urine can seep into soil or water, allowing the bacteria to live for weeks or months, according to a report from the Millhopper Veterinary Medical Center.
The Haile Plantation Animal Clinic recently treated a German shepherd with leptospirosis.
The Newberry Animal Hospital clinics, Newberry’s West End Animal Hospital, Gainesville’s Suburban Animal Hospital and Timberview Pet Clinic have not seen any confirmed cases.