Pet owners are sharing their tragic stories of loss as a warning about a rise in cases of the bacterial infection called leptospirosis.
Spay Illinois, a low-cost clinic in Lisle, first posted about the rise, writing on Facebook: “There is an outbreak of leptospirosis in Kane County, Cook County, Will County and surrounding areas”.
Stephanie Paluch shared the post after one of the puppies her group rescued died from the disease, also known as Lepto.
“It was only the second case I’ve ever seen,” said Paluch, the founder of Players for Pits Rescue in Elmhurst.
A puppy named Ranger, about four months old, entered the shelter with what was originally supposed to be Parvo. However, a South Loop vet soon diagnosed her with Lepto.
The puppy had jaundice and was probably not vaccinated.
“To see them come into contact with a deadly disease that gives them next to no chance is awful to watch,” Paluch said.
Paluch quickly wrote about Ranger’s story on social media and, to her surprise, hundreds of people shared the post along with detailed accounts of their own experiences with the disease.
Manny Salazar was one of them.
Her 9-year-old Shiba Inu, Loki, died of the disease earlier this month.
“He came into contact with an opossum,” Salazar said. “The only thing we can do is spread the word so no one has to go through what we went through.”
Lepto is a bacterial disease that is spread through the urine of infected animals such as rats, raccoons and opossums. Young puppies and unvaccinated dogs are the most susceptible, according to PAWS Chicago.
PAWS is not seeing an uptick in Lepto, but encourages all pet owners to ensure dogs are up-to-date on vaccinations.
“The worst case scenario is that it can cause liver and kidney failure. It’s treatable. It’s bacteria, so the treatment is an antibiotic,” said Emily Yacker, medical director of PAWS Chicago.
Lepto is a zoonotic disease, which means it can be transmitted to humans.
“They have to ingest it. It has to be through mucous membranes of some form, so lick through their mouths,” Dr. Yacker said. “It has to be ingested, it’s not in the air.”
PAWS offers low-cost vaccinations every weekday from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. at its Little Village Medical Center.
“Be as careful as possible. Be careful where you bring your vulnerable pup,” said Susanna Wickham, CEO of PAWS Chicago.
Signs of Lepto include vomiting, increased thirst and urination, and loss of appetite.
Wickham says the Lepto vaccine is often included in a series of shots dogs receive as puppies, but encourages pet owners to confirm with their veterinarian.