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Rare Dog Disease Is On The Rise In West Los Angeles

Veterinarians in West Los Angeles County are seeing a sharp increase in the number of Leptospirosis cases in dogs. This is a bacterial disease that can lead to kidney failure, or even death.

Dr. Alan Schulman is a veterinarian who practices in West Los Angeles. He says that during his 40 years of practice, he has seen maybe a dozen cases of Leptospirosis in dogs. But in the past three weeks, he has seen triple that number of cases. He’s not alone, as many other Westside veterinarians are reporting a large number of cases.

“People are saying ‘My dog is just not right,”’ Schulman said. “He’s sluggish, his eyes are red, he just doesn’t want to eat.”’ These are all common symptoms of the bacterial infection.

Early detection of the disease is very important, and treatments can be done using antibiotics. The disease can also be prevented with leptospirosis vaccines.

Dr. Schulman says that leptospirosis can come from contaminated water or urine. He believes this current outbreak is the result of an increase in rats around homeless encampments that are proliferating in parks.

“In those homeless encampments and in urban slums, we are seeing a phenomenal growth in the rodent population,” said Dr. Schulman. “This is not a

bacterial epidemic that’s coming in from someplace else. This is coming from here. The environment has changed and dogs are at that much risk.”

“It’s the rats,” Dr. Schulman said. “They urinate places, they defecate places, dogs get it from them. The other way it does get transmitted is directly through human urine.”

The Los Angeles Department of Public Health says that most of the affected dogs either live in or had exposures in locations on the west side of the county or the San Fernando Valley. A number of dogs may have been exposed at a boarding facility in Santa Monica. Others may have been exposed at dog parks or beaches.

The Department says it is important for veterinarians to consider leptospirosis as a possible cause when they see dogs with lethargy, loss of appetite, reluctance to move, increased thirst, increased urination, vomiting, or evidence of kidney or liver damage on bloodwork.