Outbreak of dog disease confirmed in West L.A. county

Dog at vet
Stock photo: Veterinarian examining Labrador dog at vet clinic. The L.A. County Department of Public Health released showing a rise in leptospirosis cases in dogs between April and July 2021. Photo credit Getty Images

Veterinarians in West Los Angeles say they’re seeing an uptick in cases of canine leptospirosis, a rare disease caused by the Leptospira bacteria. Vets say, if untreated, the infection could lead to kidney failure or death.

Data released by the L.A. County Department of Public Health shows numbers doubling from the end of June to the middle of July. Most cases, the department said, were reported in the county’s west side and in the San Fernando Valley.

“A number of dogs may have been exposed at a boarding facility in Santa Monica, but others may have been exposed at dog parks or beaches,” the department said in an online statement.  “At this time, there have been no reports of people becoming ill after exposure to the infected dogs.”

K9 Leptospirosis Chart 2021_08_02_epi_curve_LACO
The L.A. County Department of Public Health released this graph showing the rise in cases of leptospirosis in L.A. County dogs between April and July 2021. Photo credit L.A. County Department of Public Health

The bacteria that cause leptospirosis can infect multiple species of mammals, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. Those species include humans, dogs, rats, mice, raccoons, skunks, opossums, cows and pigs.

Most cases in L.A. County are believed to be caused by exposure to infected wildlife or rodents, according to public health officials. However, the bacteria can also be picked up from contaminated water, urine, or urine-contaminated soil.

As the surge continues, the county is urging veterinarians to first consider leptospirosis as a possible cause for ill dogs seen at their facilities. In addition, officials are warning pet owners to be on the lookout for the following: lethargy, loss of appetite, reluctance to move, increased thirst, increased urination and vomiting.

While not required, the leptospirosis vaccine is available for dogs and can be requested at the veterinarian’s office.