With the help of veterinarians and physicians, public health officials monitor human and animal populations for signs of infectious diseases. City and state public health officials investigate outbreaks of disease to protect the health of their citizens. In New York City, veterinarians are required to report cases of diseases like monkeypox, plague, rabies and leptospirosis to city officials. Last winter, the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene issued a summary of leptospirosis reporting in NYC dogs. That report contained information important to NYC dogs and their humans.
A Five Borough Disease
Between 2006 and 2013, 116 cases of leptospirosis have been diagnosed in NYC. Any dog can contract leptospirosis. The largest number of cases (45) was in dogs living in Manhattan. Brooklyn was the runner up borough with 35 cases, but leptospirosis was diagnosed in dogs residing in all five boroughs. The report included dogs from 3 months to 13 years and dogs of a variety of different breeds.
Spring is the Time
When evaluating the leptospirosis cases, a clear pattern of infection can be seen. Cases are seen all year round, but the number jumps up in May and stays up all summer and fall. The peaks and valleys of cases occurs because leptospirosis spreads via the urine of infected animals, and in the cold months, the rodents, raccoons and possums carrying leptospira bacteria are less active. The leptospira bacteria can be found in standing puddles of water, but in the winter, cases dramatically decrease because the cold temperatures kill off the bacteria before it can infect dogs.
And You Too!
Leptospirosis falls into the category of zoonotic disease, diseases shared by animal and man. During the same time period as the 116 dogs with leptospirosis were identified, only eight human cases were reported. These human cases were believed to be from rodent exposure and none were thought to be from exposure to a sick dog.
Protecting Your Dog Against Leptospirosis
- Dogs in NYC are at risk for leptospirosis.
- Talk to your veterinarian about leptospirosis vaccination to determine if it is right for your dog.
- Control rodents, which are the major source of leptospirosis in NYC.
- Don’t let your dog drink from puddles of water on the street or in the park.
- Review the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene fact sheet on leptospirosis.