Alarm has been raised among some dog owners in New York City in recent days as reports have spread about the risks to dog health posed by the city. legion of rats.
In the Williamsburg area of Brooklyn, a corner of McCarren Park used as a dog jog was temporarily closed for maintenance following rumors of an outbreak of leptospirosis, a contagious bacterial disease through the urine of rats, causing a stir on social networks. Bacteria can fester in puddles and wet areas, and animals can become very sick if they get sick. It can also cause disease in humans.
Lincoln Restler, a councilor representing the area, tweeted Last week, his office received reports that several dogs who visited the park later died of illness. The city’s Health Department said it could not confirm the reports, but said it was working with the Parks Department to check rat activity in the park. Veterinarians must report positive cases of leptospirosis to the Department of Health.
“I hope that the actions of the parks and the health department will address the conditions we have in McCarren,” Mr. Restler said in an interview.
The accounts have led to serious concern from dog owners and reminders from local veterinarians about the importance of vaccinating dogs that spend a lot of time in the parks.
What is leptospirosis?
The disease is caused by bacteria present in the urine of infected rodents, and both humans and animals are susceptible to it.
Bacteria thrive in warm, moist environments and can survive in soil, water, and food. It can enter the body through an open wound or mucous membrane, or by drinking infected water.
Dr. Gabrielle Fadl, veterinarian at Bond Vet, a local chain store, said bacterial outbreaks usually occur in late summer and fall. Initial symptoms are rather nonspecific, including vomiting, fever, and coma, making the rapid diagnosis of infection difficult.
Symptoms usually begin a week or two after exposure and can be treated with antibiotics. If left untreated, leptospirosis can cause severe liver and kidney damage, and can be life-threatening.
How common is this disease in New York City?
Cases of leptospirosis reported in people quite strong increase Last year, a spike was thought to be related to an increase in the number of mice. At the same time, reported cases of leptospirosis actually decreased.
The city reported 15 cases among residents last year, in contrast to an average of three cases a year for the previous 15 years. Health officials said most people with the disease “have a clear history or risk factors that expose them to environments that are severely infested by rats.” At least one of those infected has died. Human-to-human transmission is rare and there have been no associated cases of infection from dogs.
Among the dogs, there were also 15 cases reported last year, down from a peak of 29 in 2018. But health officials warn that the drop could be down to providers not Report cases as required. Between 2006 and 2020, a total of 269 cases – any between 8 and 29 cases per year – were reported to the Department of Health from all five counties.
Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes on its website that the disease has been diagnosed in livestock more frequently across the country in the past few years.
Dr Fadl, who works at Bond Vet’s Cobble Hill site, said that recently had practically not seen any cases there or at its Williamsburg site. Katy Hansen, director of marketing and communications for NYC’s Animal Care Center, said the three shelters run by the organization, which together adopt about 6,000 dogs a year, have also not recorded outbreaks. of leptospirosis.
How do I protect my dog (and myself)?
It is important to have a vaccine. The initial dose is followed by a booster dose three to four weeks later, and then used annually. Fadl often recommends it, especially with the increase in rat populations in New York City.
“If you have your own backyard, if your pet is in the park, if your pet likes to sniff the trash, drink from standing puddles, get vaccinated against lepto,” she says.
“It can save them, it can save you,” she added. “Especially if you have very young or elderly people in contact with this pet, it is really important to talk to your veterinarian about vaccinations.”
Staying away from puddles that may contain rat urine is key. So keeping your dog away from actual rats, as well as other small rodents, like squirrels, can spread disease.
Fadl also recommends making sure your dog avoids communal water bowls, using a travel bowl or bottle instead to provide fresh, uncontaminated water to drink.
How do city agencies and dog owners react?
According to the Parks Department, the McCarren Park Dog Run is a “temporary area” and not an official dog run, but it is heavily used by local dog owners. The department said it received only two 311 complaints regarding rodents in the park in the past year.
But the Parks Department switched trash cans in the area to rat-proof metal bins on Friday, asking a rat exterminator to conduct an inspection and begin Monday to refresh the area and replace pieces. wood spread on the ground.
The area was practically deserted on a cold day last week. Dog owners said they stayed away from the park after hearing stories that a dog named Oreo died of leptospirosis.
Humza Rizvi, 26, of Williamsburg, said fear of the spread of disease and the lack of cleanliness in the park kept him from taking his golden retriever Ollie there.
“It’s a dog park, so it’s going to be very dirty,” he said. However, he added, “sitting water and things that seem to be contagious are always there.”
Billy Lucas, 32, of Williamsburg expressed similar concerns. He said he had returned to the park with Wally, his German shepherd mix, after noticing that a sign warning of an “outbreak” had been taken down. (He noted that the sign he saw did not appear to have been posted by the city.)
“I think everything is fine,” he said. “Later, a concerned dog owner came to me and told me that a couple of puppies had passed away from lepto recently, so we all got out of there.”
Michael Malone, 28, of Williamsburg, said he did a thorough check to make sure his four-month-old Australian shepherd Rio was vaccinated and that he was vaccinated against leptospirosis.
“They encouraged us to get it because of the rats in the area,” he said. “They told us it’s not really popular outside the city, but in the city, you’d better get it.”
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/25/nyregion/leptospirosis-nyc-dog.html What NYC dog owners should know about Leptospirosis