Dogs: Vaccines are available to protect pets against disease. Matthew Hall

Jamie Paige, Special to the Daily Press

Westside dog owners are being alerted to higher-than-average numbers of cases of Leptospirosis (Lepto), a pathogenic bacterium, in dogs, as well as an outbreak of canine influenza. Dr. Jennifer Sinatra, from the Los Angeles County Veterinary Health, said the county typically sees about 10-12 cases of Lepto a year, but say that number jumped to 75 cases since late spring, a majority noted in July. There have been 46 suspected cases of Canine Influenza, the largest outbreak in LA County to date.

Sinatra said the Department of Health is seeing most Lepto cases on the westside of Los Angeles, including areas like Venice, Santa Monica and Brentwood.

Lepto is spread through direct contact with urine from an infected dog to another dog or human. The disease is transmitted from canine to canine via bite wounds and ingestion of infected tissues. A dog to human transmission is passed from contaminated dog urine to eyes, nose, or mouth. “Hygiene is important when taking care of a sick animal,” said Sinatra. “Doing things like washing your hands when taking care of your sick dog are good preventive measures,” Sinatra noted. There have been no dog-to-human cases documented at this time.

Clinical signs of dogs with Lepto include increased drinking and urinating, lethargy and a decreased interest in food. In addition, Lepto can cause kidney damage.

According to Sinatra, the Lepto outbreak-which was originally attributed to rats-has been linked to the serovar Canicola, a bacteria strain highly adapted to dogs, not rats. Most cases of Lepto have been reported in congregate settings such as dog parks, doggy daycare and other group activities.

The dog influenza (CIV) is highly contagious and almost all dogs exposed to the virus will become infected. CIV is spread through direct contact with respiratory secretions from infected dogs — coughing, barking and sneezing — and by contact with contaminated objects such as toys and water bowls.

No dogs have died from CIV; there have been two deaths linked to Lepto to date.

County veterinary health officials are urging dog owners to talk to their veterinarians about getting their dogs vaccinated for both diseases before entering boarding facilities or participating in group dog activities.

Published in partnership with the Venice Current