Vets issue warning about bacteria outbreak that could kill your dog

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FOX 32 NEWS - Veterinarians have issued a warning about a serious bacteria outbreak that could kill your dog.

The bacteria is called "Lepto-spirosis" or "Lepto" for short. It infects dogs by burrowing into their skin. Then, it spreads throughout the dog's body.

The bacteria can also be transmitted to humans.

More cases of the bacterial infection are being found in Chicago, especially in the Lake View area.

Leptospirosis is spread through rats and if left unfound, can be deadly for dogs. 

“While we're all super excited about 70 degree weather, it is sort of the perfect storm for Leptospirosis exposure,” said Dr. Natalie Marks of Blum Animal Hospital.

Doctor Marks says there's been an uptick of dogs being tested for and contracting Leptospirosis – a bacterial infection spread by the urine of rodents.

"We are unfortunately, the rattiest city in the U.S. We were just given that title. So we have a very high population of rodents. We've had unseasonably warm and rainy weather.” Dr. Marks said.

She says that's the perfect breeding ground for leptospirosis. It’s sprouting up all over the country and now in Chicago.

"Some dogs can be carriers of Lepto where all we see is an increase in thirst and urination or we can see a full blown very severe infection where dogs come in with a fever, they may have yellowing to their skin, they're vomiting and having diarrhea,” Dr. Marks said.

It can also cause liver or kidney failure.

“I'm a little worried,” said Jess Maynard.

Maynard has a 10-month-old puppy named ‘Morning.’

“My greatest concern would be if there's a way of cleaning up the dog park areas to make sure they're clean and taken care of, so we can keep this from being a breeding ground,” Maynard said.

Dr. Marks says there are concerns for dogs who live in close quarters in urban areas.

"Dogs that live off of alleyways, dogs that go to the dog park or the dog beach and are drinking water out of Lake Michigan; Dogs that go to the dog run where there is communal dog water bowls or drink out of store front water bowls are definitely more at risk,” Dr. Marks said.

Lepto can also spread to humans.

In New York City, three cases were identified and one person died from the infection.

There is a vaccine available for dogs. Vets ask pet owners to make sure they ask for one that covers all four strains found in Chicago.