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New climate equals new concerns for our pets’ health

When our family arrives in Florida, the dogs and I will arrive before the movers by a week or so.

We’ll be living skimpily, but that’s pretty much what my husband has been doing since he went down in September — getting by on the bare necessities.

When the movers show up, I am anticipating pandemonium at the house so I’m trying to make arrangements to put the dogs in a local doggy day care that gets rave reviews.

The cats will have to go in their carriers temporarily while the movers do their thing.

Doggie day cares are a wonderful invention. I used to take Oakley and Hope to doggie day care back when Oak was still with us. He’d go for half a day of romping around and socializing and come home happy and exhausted.

Luckily, this place is a boarding facility too, in case we need to board the dogs overnight if circumstances call for that. But in order to get ready for doggy day care, there is more to it than just making a phone call and scheduling an appointment.

I had a four-page form to fill out on each pet to give the day care an insight into each dog’s disposition (are they food aggressive, etc.) and personality (should they be roomed with bigger dogs or smaller dogs, etc.).

I also needed to provide proof of vaccines which I carefully ensure I have up-to-date each year.

I was surprised to find out that down in the area of Florida that we’re going to, the day care is requiring one additional vaccine that my vet up here doesn’t require: the “Lepto” vaccine as it is nicknamed.

Leptospirosis is an unfamiliar term to me. My vet had to explain. It’s not a common disease but is communicable between animals and humans (not human to human however).

So what is this Lepto-spirosis? According to the CDC, leptospirosis is a bacterial disease, spread through the urine of infected animals that affects humans and animals. It is caused by bacteria of the genus Leptospira. In humans, it can cause a wide range of symptoms, some of which may be mistaken for other diseases. Some infected persons, however, may have no symptoms at all.

Humans can get leptospirosis through direct contact with urine from infected animals or through water, soil or food contaminated with their urine. It’s most common in warm climates.

High fever, headache, bleeding, muscle pain, chills, red eyes and vomiting are some symptoms.

Without treatment, leptospirosis can lead to kidney and liver damage and even death. Antibiotics clear the infection.

All animals can potentially become infected with leptospirosis. While for many years occurrence among pets was rare, the disease has been diagnosed more frequently in the past few years.

The bacteria that cause leptospirosis are spread through the urine of infected animals, which can get into water or soil and can survive there for weeks to months. Humans and animals can become infected through contact with this contaminated urine (or other body fluids, except saliva), water or soil.

The bacteria can enter the body through skin or mucous membranes (eyes, nose or mouth), especially if the skin is broken from a cut or scratch. Drinking contaminated water can also cause infection.

Infected wild and domestic animals may continue to excrete the bacteria into the environment continuously or every once in a while for a few months up to several years.

It’s a two-part vaccine that required us taking the dogs to the vet two times over the course of two weeks.

I’ll be anxious to learn from the doggie day care, why leptospirosis is more of a concern down there, although they do say it is more prevalent in tropical or rainy climates.

My husband also informed me that West Nile Virus is a concern down there, too. Sounds like I have my research cut out for me.

Amy is author of the new children’s book, “Oakley’s Great Cape Escape,” as well as “Have Dog Will Blog,” editor of the Central PA Pets magazine and director of the Central PA Pet Expo. She can be contacted at ahanna@altoonamirror.com or by mail: Paws and Reflect, c/o Amy J. Hanna-Eckenrode, Altoona Mirror, 301 Cayuga Ave., Altoona, PA 16602.

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