Deadly disease kills 2 West Seattle dogs; 1 owner ‘on a mission’

Peg Prideaux of West Seattle lost her dog Luis (above) this month to what she describes as a rat-borne disease – and says a neighbor’s dog died of the same thing just weeks earlier, so, she says, “I’m on a mission to warn others.”

She says the dogs had never had contact with each other, but both died of what was believed to be leptospirosis. Peg explained in a note to WSB, “Dogs usually contract the disease by coming in contact with rat urine, which can be found in still water such as a backyard rain puddle. In both cases the dogs threw up; then appeared to recover; then later became ill a second time. One of the dogs had killed a rat; the other dog is believed to have come in contact with rat urine in the yard. This disease can fool you. It first appears as a simple, 24-hour ‘doggie flu,’ after which the dog appears to be normal and well while the disease works in the background. Then the dog becomes ill a second time — in my dog’s case, about a week later. At that point he went from seemingly healthy to irrecoverable in just over a day.”

Her dog was euthanized ten days ago. “I’m on a mission to warn others, because when two healthy dogs die within 10 weeks of each other from the same rat-borne illness, it’s a cause for concern in the neighborhood. Also, leptospirosis is said to increase in spring, which is right around the corner.” Just this morning, she says, a dead rat turned up in the same area, near 38th and Graham [map], found by neighbors out walking their dogs.

She suggests pet owners “within a several-block radius of 37th and Juneau [map] to see a
veterinarian immediately if their dogs vomit a meal,” and make sure you point out that two nearby dogs have died of leptospirosis. “Earliest possible detection is essential to saving your pet. Please don’t hesitate about taking your dog in.”

She says leptospirosis can also affect humans and adds that there’s a vaccine against some strains – ask your vet about it. There’s more information about leptospirosis on the Centers for Disease Control website; here’s the page about pets, and here’s the page about humans. There’s even more information on the King County Public Health website, which notes

72 Replies to "Deadly disease kills 2 West Seattle dogs; 1 owner 'on a mission'"

  • Jen Bell February 27, 2011 (5:48 pm)

    I’ve had my dog for nearly 14 years and have never heard of this. Thank you for the warning, feel better.

  • Mary T February 27, 2011 (5:54 pm)

    So sorry to hear about both dogs and THANK YOU for sharing this. As the owner of a dog who very proudly offed a rat in our own yard (luckily months ago and no ill effects) this is incredibly useful information. I’ll help spread the word.

  • Pat February 27, 2011 (6:04 pm)

    When I first brought home my puppy 5 years ago my vet mentioned leptospirosis in context of raccoons and that there were incidents on Vashon. By year 2 check up it was present in West Seattle. Now with 2 dogs and regular sitings of raccoons in our Alki area and specific yard both dogs get shots for protection.

  • SJ2 February 27, 2011 (6:38 pm)

    I am so sorry. :( How sad! I live very near to this area and also have two dogs who will go after rats/raccoons, etc.. I did not realize leptospirosis was present in West Seattle. I will be getting my dogs vaccinated for it as soon as possible.

  • Semele February 27, 2011 (6:57 pm)

    Isn’t there a vaccine for that? At least I am pretty sure that’s on our dogs list of shots. Very sad though :(

  • Emma Peel February 27, 2011 (7:03 pm)

    Thank you for sharing this information!

  • Karen February 27, 2011 (7:07 pm)

    I left my dog at a sitter at 36th and Morgan while on vacation and came back to a nearly dead dog who had contracted leptosporosis while there. Fortunately for us, through extensive and expensive treatment immediately upon our return…$3K worth, my dog was saved. It must be present in the area. As I was not with my dog I do not know how it presented initially, but I was not told of any vomiting. She was extremely lethargic as if she had been drugged with no interest in eating or drinking and was severely dehydrated. Very scary stuff and more dog owners should be aware and seek treatment immediately.

  • ad February 27, 2011 (7:17 pm)

    I’m so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing, I will spread the word.

  • ellenater February 27, 2011 (7:38 pm)

    So very sorry for your loss. :( How kind of you to try to save other dogs. I wish you the best…

  • lena February 27, 2011 (7:39 pm)

    I’m so sorry about Luis. It is so hard to lose a loved one especially so suddenly.

    As far as the vaccine for leptosporosis –

    This is the vaccine with the largest number of and most severe side effects.

    In addition to this problem – Leptosporosis has many flavors or serovars as they are called. Most leptosporosis vaccines have up to four serovars they vaccinate for. For the vaccine to work the serovar of the leptosporosis your dog encounters must match the serovar of the vaccine. Many times the serovars in the vaccine do not match the ones in the environment. This vaccine most be given every six months to be effective and maybe even more often. And many times, because the serovars don’t match, this vaccine will not protect your dog even if you give it that often.

    This is not a vaccine I recommend for my clients and many of the western vets I work with also do not recommend it because it is not highly effective in preventing the disease and can cause severe side effects.

    I do agree with Luis’s person. If you dog is sick get them checked out quickly. Leptosporosis can be sucessfully treated with antibiotics if caught early.

    There does seem to be more cases of Lepto in the Seattle area over the last year.

    Lena McCullough, DVM

  • JW February 27, 2011 (7:42 pm)

    Sorry to hear about both dogs. Thank you for sharing this story. My dog is a rat terrier and though I try to keep an eye on him, he likes to go after rats and raccoons; I will be extra vigilant from now on.

  • JB February 27, 2011 (7:44 pm)

    Wow! Scary stuff. I’m so sorry for the pet owners. Just to reiterate, this is a disease that can infect humans. Our family grows food in our yard, and we’re going to compost a lot of our winter crop because of this and the increased number of rats we’ve seen. We’ve killed several, but we still see fresh droppings and digging. I’m thinking the large number of vacant homes in the area are helping to fuel a rodent/raccoon problem.

  • Norma Berube-Adler February 27, 2011 (8:04 pm)

    Breaks my heart to hear about this & I am so sorry for both your losses. As mentioned before, other affected wildlife can hurt our pets also. We have a green belt behind our home & I get all kinds of wildlife in my backyard. I have 2 dogs & out the doggy door they run. Scares me to think of something like that happening to our pets.

  • ws2 February 27, 2011 (8:18 pm)

    Thank you for the heads up and so very sorry for both your losses — we’ve lost 2 dogs in the recent past, one to what was initially thought to be Lepto (really long story but he ended up succumbing to kidney failure) — it’s totally heartbreaking to lose pets & our thoughts are with you.

  • Julie C February 27, 2011 (9:11 pm)

    I’m so sorry to hear about your dog, Peg. Thank you for being strong and sharing with other dog owners.

  • Jaime Beckland February 27, 2011 (9:16 pm)

    Wow..we had two perfectly healthy animals die this fall from something unknown. A cat died Oct. 30th and three weeks later our dog died of absurdly similar symptoms. The vet thought it was from eating rat poisening, but we have none of it in or around our house. I had come to the conculsion for lack of any real understanding that a neighbor must be poising rats and somehow it came to our house to die..the cat ate some of it died and then later or dog found the remains and died. Seemed strange to me, but now I am thinking it maybe could be what these dogs died of. I would love to speak with the pet owner who is on a mission. Is it possible to contact them? I am extremely saddened by the loss of my two perfectly healthy pets who had a lot more life left in them and can not believe other people are having to suffer through it as well.

  • michele February 27, 2011 (9:24 pm)

    One of my coworker’s dogs passed from this last year as well and it was extremely traumatizing for him.

    Much luck to your mission! Education can cure most evils and help prevent other unfortunate circumstances so I hope you get supporters that can help you spread the word.

  • onceachef February 27, 2011 (9:31 pm)

    So sorry to hear about your dog Luis…I can’t imagine losing either of my two dogs. I know there will “be a time” but it’s even more tragic when you lose them to an insidious disease and not know how to help them. One of my two is a “ratter”…a Min Pin, and she loves to look for them around the yard…I’ve trapped and killed a few(rats) but I know they’re still around. Once again, thanks for letting us know and my condolences on losing your buddy.

  • John February 27, 2011 (10:29 pm)

    If your dog(s) are up to date on their vaccinations then you shouldn’t have to worry about leptospirosis. It’s covered in the DHLPP vaccine.

  • wsgal February 27, 2011 (11:49 pm)

    There are many forms of leptospirosis and for about half of them, there is no vaccine. When a dog that has the DHLPP vaccination is exposed to a different form of lepto, they are not protected. That means every dog has some risk, vaccinated or not. (See comment from Lena the vet, above.)

  • dinseattle February 28, 2011 (12:16 am)

    First, I am sorry for the loss of the dogs. Lepto is very real in this area. It can be contracted at dog parks, your backyard, or simply on dog walks around the neighborhood. It is caused by infected feces/urine from rats, raccoons, squirrels, etc. I do pet rescue and every dog here is vaccinated for lepto. Nothing is perfect or guaranteed, but it is the best defense they have. These are yearly shots. Please get your animals fully vaccinated! For dogs, get the distemper/parvo combo (a lot of vets are getting away from the DHLPP), the lepto, and a rabies. For a cat, get the RCPC, a leukemia, and a rabies. By keeping all animals fully vaccinated (as with human children), we can eliminate these diseases. Thank you!

  • chillmolly February 28, 2011 (6:51 am)

    I live in Colorado, and the lepto here seems to be mostly related to raccoons. Because my dogs often run off leash in the forest, I do vaccinate them once a year. The vaccinations seem to be fairly common practice for dogs that go off leash.

    Sorry for your loss.

  • J February 28, 2011 (7:09 am)

    I’m so sorry about Luis. Thank you for aleting us to the disease.

    I believe that leptospirosis can also be contracted through contact with marine mammals.
    The pathogens enter the body through a cut or break in the skin, through drinking contaminated water (as dogs sometimes do) or through contact with their eyes, mouth, nose or GI tract such as when dogs investigate (sniff, lick or chew) or roll around on dead or dying animals. We’ve had more than a few dead seals and a whale wash up on the beaches of West Seattle so while this might be a more rare way to contract the disease, it is definitely something to consider.

  • me2 February 28, 2011 (7:17 am)

    Can cats catch lepto?

  • Megan February 28, 2011 (7:18 am)

    As a vet tech who has taken care of Leptospirosis positive dogs in a local critical care hospital, I am fully behind the Leptospirosis vaccine. It is true that the Lepto vaccine used to cause the most reactions, when it was always given in the DHLPP vaccine. However, once it was separated out and given as a different vaccine, reaction rates have greatly declined. I rarely see a vaccine reaction anymore. Also, it is still completely effective as a yearly vaccine, not every 6 months, as long as it is given NOT in the DHPP vaccine.

    It is also true that the Lepto vaccine only protects against 4 of the 12 serovars. However, these are the 4 most common found in the Northwest. I only saw one dog come down with a different strain on testing, and that was a hunting dog that travelled to many states.

    Leptospirosis is transmitted through the urine of wild animals, and is also commonly found in deer and raccoon urine. So if, in the middle of the night, a wild animal urinates on your lawn, and later your dog walks through it, there is a risk of infection from grooming that urine off. The moistness of the Puget Sound area helps the bacteria to survive, which is why drier climates don’t have such a risk of Lepto. Lepto causes acute kidney failure, and if a dog survives, is considered a chronic kidney patient for life.

    The benefits of the vaccine FAR outweigh the risks in this area. PLEASE protect your pets!

  • History February 28, 2011 (7:42 am)

    In the 1300’s, cats were deemed witchy, and frowed upon, ie killed.

    Then, fleas on rats caused the bubonic plauge.

    The problem was solved by letting cats roam.

    The moral is: That roaming cat pooping in your garden may very well save you and your dogs’ life.

  • Barncatsrus February 28, 2011 (7:44 am)

    Folks who want to reduce local rat populations in cities might want to think about getting a garage cat or two. The animal shelter in Kent operated by Regional Animal Services of King County (RASKC) has outdoor cats available for placement in barn and garage homes. Cats eligible for placement in outdoor homes are too shy, fractious or unhappy living indoors to be good house pets.

    These cats are excellent hunters and will provide totally organic rodent control that does not depend on the use of poisons that can sicken your pets or kids. Articles about extreme dangers posed by the use of rodenticdes are posted here:

    Part 1:

    Part 2:

    The goal of the shelter’s Barn and Garage Cat Program is to humanely prevent free-roaming cats from uncontrolled breeding, which is a major source of homeless kittens and adult cats winding up in shelters, and put them to work as rodent hunters.

    These cats have had a health check by a veterinarian, are spayed/neutered, have tested negative for serious feline communicable diseases, and have been vaccinated, including against rabies.

    You must promise to provide a daily source of food, water and shelter that is inaccessible to predators. Examples of suitable shelter include a garage, shed or small outdoor “cat house” attached to the side of a building several feet above the ground.

    There is no charge for this service. For more information check out our Craigslist ad:

  • MOMof4 February 28, 2011 (7:51 am)

    My cat displayed these very symptoms this past month…it seemed that he was dying, but in the end, he miraculously recovered. I didn’t know about this disease before, but in doing some research,I found that yes, cats can be infected though it is rarer.
    A neighbor has razed a tall hedge that was a known home for rodents…and I have recently seen a large rat in broad daylight that appears to have been displaced.

  • notstupid February 28, 2011 (8:00 am)

    Let me just take this opportunity to point out that the vaccine for Lepto doesn’t cover most of the strains found around these parts. I had my dog religiously vaccinated against that and anything else I could think of for his 3 1/2 short years only to find out after he died of Lepto that the shots are crap.

  • CR February 28, 2011 (8:20 am)

    So sorry to hear about Luis! Thank you so much for spreading the word..I know this WS blog story this will save lives!

  • cary February 28, 2011 (8:40 am)

    How scary. Sorry for your loss. Its us against the rats. I actually have three rat traps that I leave outside out of reach from my dog. I have killed nearly a hundred rats over the years. I hate it

  • kitharris February 28, 2011 (8:59 am)

    A couple of years ago my neighbors had a rat problem that eventually the Health Dept fined them for. Out of concern for the situation, I had my small dog vaccinated against Lepto, however, after her second shot of the series, she was found allergic to the vaccination which gave similar side effects to the Lepto disease. Fortunately, the neighbors and their problem left.
    But know that rats and mice travel close to buildings and shrubbery rather than out in the open. As crazy as this sounds, hose down puddles left in walkways in the backyard on clearer days and watch for droppings doing the same to clear. Then find the source of food that is keeping them there: dumpsters, fruit droppings from trees or food dropping in gardens that are rotting and clear it out. Fecal matter (dogs and cats) left in your yard are a source of food for rats.

  • Kim February 28, 2011 (9:01 am)

    I’m so sorry for Peg’s loss of her dog. She does not say whether her vet positively diagnosed her dog with leptospirosis, nor whether he was vaccinated against it. As a former veterinary technician I saw many sick dogs and cats that had not been vaccinated, which caused needless illness and deaths in these animals, not to mention expense and hearthache for the owners. Everyone, please vaccinate your animals! Despite the urban myths, vaccines are safe and effective.

  • kitharris February 28, 2011 (9:02 am)

    Fecal matter IS a source of food for rats….sorry.

  • WSGuy February 28, 2011 (9:08 am)

    Yes, we too have killed lot of rats. I know the bird lovers might not like to hear it, but we’ve identified the main problem at our house as bird feeders. Everytime we try to put up a feeder, we get rats hanging from the walls, jumping over to the feeder and gorging themselves. It has taken about two weeks to kill all of the rats that come around after the couple of times we have tried a bird feeder, so we have just stopped. I am in this Morgan/35th area also and would encourage everyone in the neighborhood to do their part to kill the rats.

  • Olly February 28, 2011 (9:40 am)

    Sorry about your pup. Thank you for sharing this info.

  • Jamie February 28, 2011 (9:43 am)

    Thanks so much for sharring this with us! I am so sadden to hear about your loss, and everyone else that has sharred similar stories. This is a horrific thing. I am spreading the word vastly with other dog owners and people in the neighborhood. I live only a few blocks from where both of these dogs died, both of those insections listed are a mere 2 blocks from my daily dog walking routes. It seems from everyone’s feedback that there is quite a difference of opinion on whether to get the lepto vaccine or not. I will be calling my vet in the neighborhood right now and see what they recommend. I don’t want to take any chances with my beloved dogs!

  • lucky chick February 28, 2011 (9:59 am)

    Terrible about your dog. So sorry to hear it. I’m a little confused about the vaccine – the standard vaccine may not cover all strains, but of there are bad side effects with the vaccine, why is it included in the DHLPP… and are there augmentation vaccines to cover additional atrains… if anyone gets further details, or if the DVM can clarify, that would be greatly appreciated.

  • karen February 28, 2011 (10:00 am)

    This is very sad to hear about sorry about your loss and thanks for sharing.

  • rab February 28, 2011 (10:08 am)

    We have dachshunds and they are not supposed to be vaccinated for lepto.They get are more prone to a reaction than most dogs apparently.We are very close to this area. Not sure what to do.Will be calling the vet.

  • Jamie February 28, 2011 (10:16 am)

    I just spoke to my vet (Lien Animal Clinic), who is within a mile from these 2 lepto incidents. They do not vaccinate for lepto (within the DHLPP vac). My dogs were only given the DHPP (the lepto vac is separated out from the 5 way vac as it has many more side effects in the 5 way vac vs. a separate vac). I tried to explain to my vet that there is a lepto outbreak within a mile from their clinic and I wanted to know what they recommend. I was told they “those incidents haven’t been confirmed to be from lepto” and they do not recommend the lepto vac. I pressed further and I was told I needed to make an appointment with the vet to speak about the matter further. WTF!!! If even one dog has died of lepto a mile from the clinic, why wouldn’t they want other neighborhood dogs to be vaccinated???!!! Does anyone else have any recommendations on vaccinations for this in the area? Are most neighborhood dogs getting the DHLPP vac or a separate lepto vac? Two vet staff have responded to this thread with conflicting info on the vac. I just want to protect my pets!

  • Tatum February 28, 2011 (10:37 am)

    Thank you so much for getting this on the WS blog Peg! We hope the loss of our sweet Benni and your beloved Luis will save more pets in our area.

    I quickly wanted to answer a question posed by Kim above. I’m not sure about Luis but our pup was not given a positive Lepto diagnosis. Our vet believes the disease took over so quickly that the antibodies didn’t have time to form in her blood. All signs pointed to Lepto. This is the opinion of 2 doctors at VCA in Burien and our vet here in WS.

    Neither one of our dogs had the Lepto vaccine prior to this incident. We had been told about it, but because it wasn’t mandatory and relatively rare in our area, we passed. Our current vet makes this a mandatory vaccination and has for years. Unfortunately, we were not going to him when we brought our pups home from the shelter. Believe me, I really wish we had seen him first.

    Our other dog was vaccinated and put on antibiotics right after Benni passed to make sure he too wouldn’t succumb to Lepto. He has had zero side effects and is healthy.

  • KMW February 28, 2011 (10:42 am)

    Lepto is not only caused by Rat Urine, it can be caused by other animals’ urine as well. From experience…there are also rats in the North Admiral/Sunset area. And with intense raining, it drives them out of the sewer pipes where they live, and into warmer, drier locations such as garages and even crawl spaces. button your houses up and don’t let your pets near standing water.

  • Alex February 28, 2011 (12:10 pm)

    The rats are a big problem. In October I painted my front door and left it slightly open to dry. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught a huge rat coming in the door, broad daylight. We now have several neighbors who are keeping chickens and are speculating thats a big draw.

  • Jamie February 28, 2011 (12:32 pm)

    what vet do you see in WS please? It sounds like a sensible vet that would make lepto vac mandatory if there is any incidents of it at all in the immediate vicinity.
    Thanks, Jamie

  • Dr. Cary DVM February 28, 2011 (1:30 pm)

    So much misinformation out there on this one…
    a) Leptospirosis is shed in the urine of an infected animal — be it a rat, deer, raccoon, or dog.
    b) Infection is through a mucous membrane (lining of the mouth, nose, rectum) or a cut in the skin.
    c) Lepto likes moist, cool environmental conditions.
    d) Many diseases can look like lepto (conversely, lepto can look like many other diseases). I have not seen anything confirming lepto in these cases, I am sure the information will spread when available.
    e) The vaccine(s) on the market today are NOT the same as the vaccines on the market 10 years ago. The newer vaccines cover several strains of Lepto., and have MUCH less “vaccine reaction” associated with them.
    f) Studies have shown that some breeds are more sensitive to the vaccine than others — but their sensitivity increases GREATLY when multiple vaccines are given together (hence the removal of lepto from the combo vaccines).
    g) The newer vaccine contains isolates of 4 of the dozens of strains of Lepto in existence. The 4 covered are common veterinary pathogens, and studies support that there is some cross-reactivity (the vaccine protects against strains other than those specifically included in the vaccine.
    h) Not all dogs are at risk for contracting this disease, so it is not a “core” vaccine like rabies or parvo. Add to this the negative press the (old, badly formulated) vaccine got AND “muckraking” by non-veterinary professionals, and you see what happened — the decline in administration. It wasn’t until the outbreak on Vashon (was that 5-6 years ago?) AND the introduction of the newer vaccines that people began taking an interest again (in WS, specifically).

    When I practiced in WS, potential for lepto exposure was a given, yet I often felt like I had to “sell” people on the risk — and was often shut down thanks to the opinion of the dog’s breeder, groomer, walker… It’s unfortunate that it takes the death of a few dogs to get the chatter started…

    True, no vaccine is 100% effective. And also true, at no time can anyone say a vaccine (or any injection for that matter) will come without side effects. The “game” is balancing the benefits (protection, even if incomplete, in the face of a deadly disease) against the risks (vaccine reaction, very low possibility with the reformulated vaccines). Ultimately, it is up to the pet owner AND their veterinarian to decide together which direction to take.

  • doggydodo February 28, 2011 (2:46 pm)

    How can a vet make any vaccination mandatory w/o some law being passed? Who knows what other dangers lurk in wild animal urine/feces… it is sad that the dogs died of this cause, but it is each pet owners duty to vaccinate their pet according to their own beliefs and of course, the laws. Now that people are being educated they should make that decision for themselves. Sorry for all your losses, is is terrible to lose a pet, they are like family. Good for you for posting the information to educate the rest of us.

  • lena February 28, 2011 (2:58 pm)

    There is a lot of conflicting info out there on the lepto vaccine. I follow the work of Ron Schultz
    out of the univeristy of madison wisconsin veterinary school. He is the only person doing research on vaccination independent of funding by the vaccination companies. Many veterinarians follow his work including the vets at Lien Animal Clinic.
    Even though the lepto vaccine is labeled for a year his studies show that it only lasts about six months, in some cases less.
    It is only effective against 4 out of the 12 strains so is only 33% effective if it is 100% against those strains – which it is not.
    So overall it is only about 25% effective if given every six months.
    It should not be given in combo with the DHPP as this is a bacterin vaccine and has a differient immune response to it then the viral vaccine.
    Add to that the risk of side effects – I have seen at least one dog die after getting this vaccine and a handful of ones with very bad side effects resulting in induction of autoimmune disease.
    In my opinion the risk of the vaccine inducing damage is greater than the risk of leptosporosis.

    I am pro-vaccine but the risks and benefits need to be weighed.

    Lien does not recommend the lepto vaccine because they believe that it is not worth the risk of giving it.

    Believe me they could be making money off of it but choose not to.

    Please do your research before giving this one.
    best wishes,
    Lena McCullough, DVM

  • Peg February 28, 2011 (3:00 pm)

    I am so sorry to hear about Luis. I live in Tukwila but go to VCA in Burien. My new little guy, a rat terrier, has all his shots but I do recommend this vet for all your animal needs. They are kind and responsive and when my new buddy came down with a cold shortly after adoption. It’s nice that they are open 24/7! So sorry for your loss, Peg.

  • Tatum February 28, 2011 (3:06 pm)

    We see Dr. McKim, at Greentree Animal Hospital, and could not be happier with the care he and the entire staff provides. Our surviving pup is epileptic so we’re frequent visitors to the office. I’ve always felt his recommendations are reasonable and in the best interest of our pets health. I’m sure he’ll tell you that Benni did not test positive for Lepto just as your other vet did. However, it’s worth giving the clinic a call to get more clarification on what their vaccination entails. There are multiple strains and the information tends to get convoluted. Good luck.

  • Slider February 28, 2011 (3:16 pm)

    Pet Care Center gives the vaccine, at least they gave it to my dog last June.

  • Robert February 28, 2011 (3:40 pm)

    Has a vet confirmed the leptospirosis killed the dogs? The article didn’t say.

  • iheartgreenwood February 28, 2011 (3:56 pm)

    I’m so sorry to hear this, and thank you for sharing your story. My vet in Greenwood/Phinney recommends routinely vaccinating dogs against lepto.

  • Carraig na Splinkeen February 28, 2011 (4:02 pm)

    WSB–you provide such an incredible resource to the WS community (and beyond). Thank you!!!
    Our beloved puppy, who is out many times a week on Alki, Schmitz, etc., had a bout within the last week that sounds like phase 1–time to call the vet to consult on next steps.

  • Lan Bradner February 28, 2011 (4:12 pm)

    Something no one has mentioned are neighbors who insist on feeding squirrels peanuts. They in turn come to surrounding yards to dig & bury the nuts causing an extreme problem for gardeners. At the same time they are feeding rats, racoons, rabbits, possums, all of which inhabit my back yard. I have 2 Westies that try, but with 20 trees in a four level yard there is not a chance they can catch them. The neighbor also feeds bread to crows and says they wouldn’t eat the bread if they weren’t hungry. How can you cope with this sort of person?

  • Noelle February 28, 2011 (4:43 pm)

    Thank you for sharing this info WSB! YOu guys alway do sucha great job!! I wanted to share what I have learned. My vet hospital (West Seattle Animal Hospital in Jefferson Square) was very informative and helpful. They told me that the Lepto Was Not included in My Dog’s DHPP Vacine. My vet gives the Lepto Vacine as an indavidual inoculation also, to cut down on the reactions. I was told that smaller dogs (like Chihuahuas, Maltese, Pomeranian) are more likely to have a reaction than larger dogs. They said to not to let your dog drink from puddles or communal water bowls (like the ones at Westcrest Off-leash dog park.) It is a personal choice to weight if the reaction risk is worth it . . . depending on how outdoorsy your pet is I guess.

    A Portable Water Bottle and Bowl might be a good investment for your pet’s walks around town or runs at the park. You would also be cutting their risk of Kennel Cough as a bonus!

  • Tish February 28, 2011 (4:51 pm)

    Will annual vaccinations prevent this? My dog has been in a fight with a raccoon and killed a rat at Seward Park before. She is fine…

  • Megan February 28, 2011 (7:01 pm)

    Unfortunately Ron Schultz’s last published study was in 1998. 12 years+ have passed since then, and vaccines become more effective. Having done relief as a vet tech at many hospitals in the area, the majority of them recommend the Lepto vaccine given separately and boosted annually. My Italian Greyhound gets DHPP every 3 years, Rabies every 3 years, Bordatella every 1 year, and Leptospirosis every 1 year. No more, no less…and my pets are truly my children who I bend over backwards for. My cat even gets acupuncture. :)

  • Dr. Kraabel February 28, 2011 (11:16 pm)

    From Lien Animal Clinic:

    I’m so sorry for the loss of those two dogs. I wish I could tell how sure your doctors were about the diagnoses of leptospirosis. Lepto is neither simple nor straight forward and can be frustratingly difficult to confirm.

    The decision to vaccinate or not for leptospirosis is complicated. I appreciate Dr. McCullough’s and Dr. Cary’s comments to help everyone clarify the issues. We strive to constantly balance effectiveness, safety and the risk of disease. Our concerns have been:
    • As was pointed out, the leptospirosis vaccinations were historically responsible for the majority of the vaccine reactions seen. The current vaccines available do appear safer and less reactive.
    • Leptospirosis vaccination likely doesn’t protect for a year, yet is recommended yearly.
    • There are a lot of different types, or serovars, of lepto and it was long believed there was no cross protection from one strain to the next. Further, the vaccination strains were not the strains seen in natural infection. Thoughts on this have definitely changed with time. There is now thought to be some cross-protection, but this is still vague.
    • If the immunity doesn’t last and there may not be cross protection we may not be protecting many of the animals receiving the vaccine.
    • Once vaccinated, animals will test positive for antibodies to Lepto. Since testing for antibodies is the main way the disease is diagnosed, vaccination can make diagnosis more difficult, at least in the short term.
    • We test for this disease in suspicious cases fairly often and haven’t had a confirmed case in many years.

    For Jamie earlier, I apologize that your concerns were not addressed when you phoned our office. Please feel free to contact me anytime to discuss this further. These reports of Leptospirosis in the area are very concerning to us and we constantly reevaluate and consider our preventative care recommendations about all vaccinations, including Lepto.

    We do carry leptospirosis vaccination but do not recommend it as a core vaccination. We recommend it much as it has been described, separated from the DHPP. It is given as a two shot series the first time and then yearly as indicated. The decision to use the vaccination should be based on concern, risk, potential side effects, and personal preference. Certainly an increased area prevalence of the disease is a significant factor.

    I hope this helps clarify some of the differing recommendations. I appreciate the discussion and helping make informed decisions and that we are all after the same goal of improving our animals’ health.

    Timothy Kraabel, DVM

  • D March 1, 2011 (5:31 am)

    My lab had the same thing when he was 6 months old. 3 grand later he was fine and we got him vaccinated for it. To this day his kidney levels are a little off but he’s okay for the most part. California and Myrtle area about 2 years ago

  • Kristina March 1, 2011 (6:02 am)

    I’ve heard leptospirosis is at some parks as well

  • Robert March 1, 2011 (6:25 am)

    Sorry to harp on this again but has a vet confirmed that the 2 dogs died from leptospiroris? I have no doubt that other dogs have been infected based on the comments on this article, but unless a vet confirms that the 2 dogs highlighted in the headline of the story were killed by leptospirosis, no one can say how they died.

  • westie March 1, 2011 (9:34 am)

    Ironically, the same day I read this I came home to find my 2 dogs had dug up a nasty rat and had been playing with it for a short time. After talking to the nice nurse at the West Seattle Animal Hospital (near Safeway) I feel more at ease with the situation. If you have any questions I highly recommend calling them (932-3308) or your vet to find the right plan for you and your dogs. Time for rodent control!

  • mary March 1, 2011 (12:41 pm)

    Dr. Cary,

    You stated above that not all dogs are at risk.Could you please elaborate on this statement.It seems that the ws area has a bad rodent problem.

    Thankyou so much, Mary

  • lucky chick March 1, 2011 (1:40 pm)

    I don’t think most people (myself included) understand the complexity of pets and disease. My cat has a fairly rare fungal infection (the fungus is not rare, but the reaction is). She can’t tell the vet how she feels or what she ate that day, or whether she can see (she couldn’t). It’s astounding that vets can figure out what’s wrong with their patients. Lein vets always tend to my animals (and me, the annoying client who has enough biology background to be a pain in the butt). Dr Kraabel even made some calls to other patients when he suspected I was paying too much for the medicine!
    I very much appreciate the Lein vets for being cautious about vaccinations. They explained to me that a rabies vaccine might not be needed for my [indoor!!] cats. They research all aspects of suspected disease and explain it fully and always patiently to me (with my many questions). In one case, they cautioned that a cortisone shot would lessen my last cat’s discomfort and restore her function, but there was a rare chance for reaction. I took the chance and my cat had the reaction, but because of the vets at Lein I knew what to look for. It’s a lucky pet that gets treated at Lein! See also the string of comments on Lein in the Forums.

  • wsls March 1, 2011 (6:00 pm)

    Were these dogs even diagnosed with lepto or was it just suspected???? To me it sounds like someone has been leaving out rat poison around the neighborhood and the dogs died from that. To my knowledge lepto is something that makes dogs very sick and not just vomiting, and they do not get better before they get worse. I am very sorry for your losses but I do think more research should be done before spreading widespread panic to dog owners. There are many many more cases off dogs dying from rat poison than lepto.

  • Kristine March 1, 2011 (6:27 pm)

    I’m so very sorry; this is heartbreaking.

    Lepto is prevalent on Vashon as well, and we do vaccinate our dogs, but know that the vaccination is only effective against a small number of strains of Lepto. Still I figure it’s better than nothing so we choose to vaccinate, but never allow our dogs to drink out of mud puddles, ditches or standing water of any kind. Raccoons are also a carrier; their urine can contaminate standing water.

  • Nora March 1, 2011 (8:01 pm)

    thanks for posting this, I am so sorry for your loss of Luis. We live in the Juneau neighborhood too and my pup was suspiciously dangerously ill last week as well… vomiting, bloody poo, lethargy… two days of IV fluids and antibiotics and he’s back on his feet but it was scary and sudden…overnight. Our neighbor’s dog had a much milder reaction about the same time although didn’t require a trip to the vet. they both are house dogs, haven’t been out playing with rats and are almost never unsupervised. We both just read your posting and haven’t gotten either one tested yet and don’t know if you can test after the fact, or if it will any good to know if they had but, but since we are all in the neighborhood I wanted to contribute.

  • Lynn March 2, 2011 (11:00 am)

    I was just going to post what Kristine mentioned about mud puddles, standing water, big no-no. I don’t even let my dogs drink out of communal bowls outside establishments. I had a friend that lost a litter of 3 puppies at 12 weeks due to lepto. Such a tragic way for an animal to die.

    Another thing is to keep bird feeders out of your yard, and no food of any kind in compost bins to avoid more rats coming into your yard.

  • (required) March 2, 2011 (9:57 pm)

    Wait — there are RATS in Seattle?!

  • Clive Woodhouse March 3, 2011 (10:00 am)

    I wish local veterinarians would play a greater social responsibility role in these kinds of situations. Could not vets take post-mortem serum or urine samples from these “suspected” animals and have them tested for antibodies or leptospira? That would be the most definitive way to test for true outbreaks, and would also be of benefit to their client base.

    I’d be interested to hear from any of the vets reading these posts to discover if anyone actually does this.

  • Susan March 4, 2011 (11:57 am)

    Just read this article and this morning had to take our airedale 11 mon. old to VET with lethargy and high fever. They are treating as if this disease because I told them about this blog.
    3/4/2011 Mt. Baker off Hunter Blvd.

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