Recent Leptospirosis outbreak in Inner Sydney dogs

Recent Leptospirosis outbreak in Inner Sydney dogs:

Updated 20th August

A summary of the latest Information from the Sydney University Veterinary Teaching Hospital

” Unfortunately another dog has died from Leptospirosis at our hospital on the 10th of August. The case was confirmed as a definite positive last week and we were able to identify serovar Copenhageni as the strain of Leptospira infecting this dog. Copenhageni is the serovar that we are currently vaccinating dogs for. This case brings the case number up to 7 confirmed cases. Two cases were detected last year and there have been five cases since May this year. Unfortunately all of these dogs have died or required euthanasia due to a poor prognosis. Cases were all confined to Surry Hills, Darlinghurst, Redfern and Glebe. Reports of cases from other areas are false. “

More information can be found on the UVTHS Facebook page 

Updated Sunday 4th August

Many of our concerned clients have asked about the recent cases of Leptospirosis seen in 6 dogs located in the Inner Sydney area. 

What is Leptospirosis and where does it occur?

Leptospirosis is a peculiar type of bacteria that has many sub-types (or serovars). It is found in many parts of the world and tends to be found in warmer areas. Its primary host is usually rodents such as rats and the bacteria can multiply in the host which then shed hundreds of bacteria in their urine.

It is most commonly seen in  rural areas on farms where there is lots of grain storage which provides a perfect breeding ground for rats.

How does a dog become infected?

The bacteria can be swallowed, or invade damaged skin or even be sniffed up by dogs. Usually this happens when a dog drinks from a stagnant body of water that a rat has urinated in, such as a puddle in a construction site.

What signs does it cause in affected dogs?

Once the bacteria invade the dog’s blood stream, it can travel to the kidneys and/or the liver and cause  significant damage to these organs. The damage can be so extreme that it is often fatal.


Can it affect other species ?

Yes, other animals can also become hosts for the bacteria such as cats but they do not seem to suffer such ill effects and rarely become ill. However, it is a serious health concern for people as they can be affected in much the same way as dogs. Severe infections can similarly cause kidney and liver failure in people.

How are people infected?

Leptospirosis is a Zoonotic disease. That means it can be spread to humans. Humans can get Leptospirosis through direct contact with urine from infected animals or through water, soil or food contaminated with their urine.


Is it a problem in the Northern Beaches? 

No cases of Leptospirosis have been isolated on the Northern Beaches. It is supposed that the recent bout of infections in Inner Sydney city were likely due to rats breeding in construction sites and recent rains flushing their urine into puddles that dogs have subsequently been exposed to. 

How can I protect my dog?

The best way to protect your dog (and yourself) is to avoid contact with rat urine, do not let your dog drink from any stagnant water where rats have been and avoid taking your dog for walks around inner city construction sites.

If you cannot avoid these risks then getting your dog vaccinated will provide protection. A series of two booster vaccines given 2-4 weeks apart provides immunity for 12 months; continued immunity is  achieved by annual boosters. The vaccine appears to be very safe and has been widely available and used overseas and in rural Australia for many years.

At MVVH we believe that all vaccinations need to be carefully considered and tailored to each pets risk status. The WSAVA (World Small Animal Veterinary Association) current recommendations that the vaccine against Leptospirosis is a non-core vaccine. This means that it should only be given if the risks are high enough to warrant its use. Currently, we believe the risks are low and so we are not routinely recommending vaccination for most dogs.

However, this is something we are monitoring and will change our recommendations if the risk status increases in this area. We have access to the vaccine and will definitely be recommending it to high risk dogs.

Please have a chat with us if you have any concerns about the risk of this disease affecting your dog and want to explore vaccination. We will readily weigh up the risks and benefits and tailor the best vaccination programme accordingly.

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