Happy Spring everybody!
(P.S. I proposed … .and she accepted!)
Rainy enough for ya? (Another version of, “hot enough for ya?” but somehow even more annoying.) Please excuse me – I’m a little grouchy. I’m tired of the rain! (As I write this – right now – guess what – it’s raining!)
I’m pretty sure I’ve been wearing a beanie for six solid months.
Having said that, us Californians are grateful for this (relentless) rain. Battling our drought is more important than our comfort and good hair days.
Water is life and we are thankful.
But what we’re not so thankful for, and what has pulled me out of my blog exile, is a very real health concern that has been affecting local dogs and their owners recently because of all this rainfall.
Water-borne illnesses. (See a comprehensive slide-show of them here.)
(Lady, showing harmful bacteria her true feelings.)
Leptospirosis, Giardia and other Nasty Critters have been thriving in the standing water that never gets to dry up because of all this (relentless/wonderful) rain.
Waste from wild life is the real culprit here – a deer or raccoon pees or poos, it runs downhill with the water, and thrives for weeks or months in a puddle, creek or mud.
You know – all the places your dog loves to drink from and splash around in.Those kinds of places.
This recent article cited a Bay Area dog who died earlier this year due to complications from Lepto from playing in a park. A San Francisco vet is quoted as witnessing five documented cases of Lepto-positive dogs in early 2017 in her practice alone.
Besides this one article, I’ve heard through the grapevine from my veterinary friends that Lepto is on the rise and I need to pay attention.
An artistic rendering of me and my vet friends hating everything that hurts and kills dogs. Grrrrrr.
In addition, a wonderful, healthy and happy WOOF dog had to be euthanized recently due to a bacteria he encountered playing outdoors that didn’t respond to antibiotics and hospitalization.
So I felt a public service announcement was in order: please be aware of waterborne illnesses! Especially right now while everything is still very wet out there.
Some important tips:
Don’t allow your dog to drink water from puddles or creeks – EVER.
Wash your dog thoroughly if he/she has been frolicking in mud/puddles, etc. (Or keep them on a leash and don’t let them do it until the ground dries out.)
Ask your vet about the Lepto vaccine – it is a series of two vaccines spaced 2 to 4 weeks apart (if your dog has never been vaccinated for it) and is sometimes included in the Distemper vaccine (DHLPP instead of DHPP – the L stands for Lepto) *Note the vaccine is not 100 percent effective, but certainly increases the odds of your dog not becoming seriously ill from exposure
Some facts about Lepto:
It’s more common in warmer climates
It’s transmitted through urine (think of urine settling into puddles and mud)
It’s a spiral-shaped bacteria that can live in a favorable environment for weeks or even months
It is zoonotic, which means that you CAN get it from your dog (again, from direct contact with urine from an infected animal or infected water, soil or food – so wash your hands after outdoor activities and cleaning up after your pet!)
If caught in time, it has about a 75 percent survival rate
Symptoms to look for:
increased water consumption
blood in urine
The toughest part is realizing something is wrong with your dog in time to start a successful course of fluids and antibiotics. The symptoms can be so subtle – not to mention general and symptoms of countless other serious and not-so-serious conditions.
Pay close attention to your dog and his/her habits. When in doubt, go to your vet and get that bloodwork or Xrays. It could truly save your dog’s life.
In the article referenced above, for example, the dog was 13 years old, so the owner, understandably, thought her lethargy and other symptoms were just signs of an older dog slowing down. By the time she went to the vet, the bacteria had spread and affected her organs too much to save her. Sadly, most of these dogs go into renal failure when their kidneys stop working and euthanasia is really the only humane option.
As for me and Lady, we are squarely in the danger zone. We hike almost every morning (very early, in the dark, before work), splashing through water and mud.
We love our early-morning hikes and take selfies to document our adventures.
Lady is older (10) and is having typical old-dog symptoms. Some days she’s tired. Some days she’s achy. Some days she doesn’t feel like eating. I have to pay close attention to what’s “normal” and what could be something serious like Lepto.
I’m sure you all feel my pain here.
So what are my choices? I can hike without Lady and break her heart. I can stop hiking altogether and break everyone’s hearts.
We can just all stop doing everything we love because there are dangers involved in living.
I say no to that.
Instead, I’ve decided to continue doing what we all love, but doing it more thoughtfully and with some key precautions.
I’ve vaccinated Lady for Lepto. I keep her on leash during the hike, and am vigilant about not allowing her to drink water off the ground. I rinse and clean her legs and underside every morning post-hike (yes, every morning, when it is still dark outside and we are all tired, which sucks for both of us, but makes me feel a whole lot better when I see her “cleaning” her legs as she rests in her doggie bed.)
We will live informed, but we will not live in fear.
I urge you all to do the same.
(I am not a veterinarian nor an expert on waterborne illnesses – please consult your veterinarian about your dogs’ lifestyle and best health choices.)