Deadly Disease Hitting Michigan Dogs

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A life-threatening bacterial infection has struck more than 20 dogs in the metro Detroit area within the last three weeks.

This severe strain of leptospirosis is very deadly and particularly rare.

"Since 2000, we've seen 20 or 30 cases in the whole state of this type of leptospirosis," said Dr. Carole Bolin, director of MSU's Diagnostic Center for Population and Animal Health.

Dogs can catch the disease from rats or from standing water or animal urine. This type of leptospirosis can also transmit dog-to-dog and even dog-to-person.

Symptoms worsen rapidly, starting with the dog refusing to eat or not looking like itself, growing within days to vomiting, liver or kidney failure and death.

Infections in humans have similar symptoms with feelings of flu-like symptoms, fever and muscle cramps.

Leptospirosis is treatable if caught early enough.

"This is a bacterial disease so antibiotics can be helpful, but they have to get in early before all of the damage has been done to the organs," said Dr. Bolin.

Another important step to take is to make sure your pet is vaccinated against leptospirosis. If you're unsure, you can ask your vet to check.

No leptospirosis cases of this type have been reported in the mid-Michigan area yet.

The good news, Dr. Bolin says, is a good hard freeze will help to kill off the bacteria responsible for the infection.