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Disease fatal for pets

March 17th, 2005, 11:33 AM
I posted this article because the Fredericton Gleaner is online by sub only. Sad but cautionary tale:

Daily Gleaner | Provincial News
As published on page A1/A2 on March 16, 2005

Disease fatal for pets

Dr. Amy Schneider, a veterinarian at Valley Veterinary Hospital on Lincoln Road, shows a poster and information brochure explaining some of the risks of leptospirosis to dogs.

The Daily Gleaner

Mocha was the sort of gentle dog that never put up a fuss, even when her two-legged companions dressed her up in funny outfits to snap a picture.

The chocolate lab, with a moist brown nose, was an obedient family pet who loved chances to run at the University of New Brunswick's woodlot, sniffing wooded trails at Odell Park and visiting beaver dams in Mactaquac.

The cliche "it's a dog's life," seemed to sum up the charmed life of the family pet, who was adopted by first-time dog owners Pascal and Janice Giasson.

"She was full of life, love, and energy, yet was very obedient and could not stand being away from us and just went ballistic when kids were around," said Fredericton resident Pascal Giasson.

What should have been a happy tale, turned tragic last October when the two-year-old Labrador retriever suddenly became overrun with a re-emerging disease many pet owners are now being warned about.

Mocha wouldn't stop vomiting and was only picking at her food.

Concerned, the Giassons consulted a local veterinarian and Mocha was put on a round of antibiotics. When the treatment didn't work, they rushed her to the Atlantic Veterinary College in Prince Edward Island where more specialized treatment options were available.

There, they learned definitively, what their local veterinarian suspected.

Mocha had contracted leptospirosis, a serious illness caused by a bacteria carried by wild animals, including raccoons, deer, skunks and rodents.

Water-loving dogs typically become infected after drinking from rivers, streams, or even puddles contaminated by the urine of other infected wild animals.

The disease attacks vital organs, like the kidney and liver, often leaving animals who survive with permanent organ damage.

Mocha didn't make it.


Her kidney's failed less than one week after she first exhibited symptoms of the disease.

"She was a trooper the whole time, and wagged her tail to the very end," Pascal Giasson said.

The couple brought Mocha back to Fredericton so their two children, aged 10 and 12, could say goodbye to their playmate. The family pet was buried in a popular family camping location.

"It all happened so quickly, I think that was the worst. You couldn't prepare yourself for it," said Pascal Giasson, choking back tears. "I had this vision in my mind of us growing old together and then boom, she's gone."

Leptospirosis, thought to have disappeared from New Brunswick, began to re-emerge last fall. There is a vaccine to protect dogs from certain strains of the disease but until recently most local veterinarians hadn't believed it was necessary.

Dr. Amy Schneider, of the Valley Veterinary Hospital on the Lincoln Road, said she's heard of about a dozen confirmed cases of the disease and is advising her clients to consider vaccination.

It remains uncertain how widespread the disease is in New Brunswick, but there have been confirmed cases among dogs in Fredericton and Grand Bay-Westfield. Common symptoms include discoloured urine, vomiting, lack of appetite and lethargy.

Not all domestic animals get sick, but they can become carriers of the bacterium and infect others. The disease has emerged in both urban and rural areas.

"Some dogs would contact the disease and you'd never know," Schneider said.

Humans can also contract the bacteria by coming in direct contact with their pet's urine, through an open wound or their eyes. To guard against human infection, Schneider advises pet owners to practise hand washing and to take other common-sense precautions.

Unlike the rabies vaccine, it is not mandatory for dog owners to get their pets vaccinated for leptospirosis, said Dr. Jim Goltz, who manages provincial veterinary services.

Goltz said his office is monitoring the disease emergence by asking local veterinarians to voluntarily report incidents of the disease they encounter. There is no mandatory requirement for veterinarians to report confirmed cases of leptospirosis, however.

Like the annual flu vaccine, Goltz said there is also no guarantee the particular strain covered by vaccine will protect from new emergent strains of the disease.

"If it's an indoor animal that never goes outside, then the risk is nil," he said. "But if it's a dog that goes outside and drinks a lot from puddles then the risk is higher."

Ann Savoy, who lives near Grand Bay-Westfield, said her six-year-old Belgian malinois named Raleigh exhibited signs of the disease in November. It wasn't until the last few months that Raleigh's health began to improve. The dog has suffered permanent organ damage and is now on a specialized diet.

"I am just glad to have him. I love my dog," she said. A fact sheet on leptospirosis is available at the provincial government's website at

March 17th, 2005, 11:52 AM
I live in Fredericton, and when I took Harley to the vet she recommended that he be vaciniated for this. She said that is was become more common around fredericton, she wasn't sure why, but it was. Thank god I took her advice.

March 17th, 2005, 12:59 PM
Very sad. My dogs are vaccinated against this, but as I understand there's more than one strain :(

March 17th, 2005, 04:27 PM
Lepto hit Dorval (on the Montreal Island for those of you not from here) mostly from raccoons a few years ago. My doggies get the two lepto shots every spring.

March 24th, 2005, 09:48 PM
My God this story is so sad, feel so sorry for this family. :sad:
Beautiful Lab

March 24th, 2005, 11:01 PM
My pup was vaccinated for this at 16 weeks in August. Many outbreaks in Toronto - unfortunately not all strains were covered by the vaccines. Will be getting shots again - too many raccoons and skunks - and my Eskimo loves to drink from puddles - despite my best efforts to pull him back. Thanks for posting.