Study finds Nova Scotia has highest rate of leptospirosis in dogs

A new study says Nova Scotia has the highest percentage of dogs who test positive for a potentially deadly disease than anywhere else in the country.

Leptospirosis, also called lepto, is a bacterial infection in dogs that kills more than 25 per cent of infected animals.

Lepto is transmitted through urine and urine-contaminated water such as puddles. Symptoms include dogs being lethargic and vomiting and can range from subtle to severe. The disease is zoonotic, so it can be transmitted to humans.

Researchers at the Atlantic Veterinary College at the University of Prince Edward Island looked at 10,437 positive tests of lepto in dogs from clinics across Canada over a 10-year period.

Nova Scotia had the highest rate of lepto cases with 19 per cent of tests being positive. Ontario was second with 10 per cent.

Dr. Jason Stull with the Atlantic Veterinary College called the test positivity rate in Nova Scotia ‘quite concerning.’ (Nicola MacLeod/CBC)

Manitoba and Alberta had the lowest rate of positive tests at just one per cent.

“When we see numbers that come that high in close to 20 per cent, I would argue that’s quite concerning,” said Dr. Jason Stull, an assistant professor at the Atlantic Veterinary College.

He said the study is a first in looking at how common lepto is in Canada.

The study looked at dogs’ age, sex and breed, as well as when the positive test was performed.

Dogs have a higher risk of contracting lepto if they are male, less than a year old, a smaller breed and live in an urban area, according to the analysis.

Halifax vet not surprised by study findings

A Halifax veterinarian said she’s not surprised Nova Scotia has the highest rate of positive lepto tests in Canada.

“Given the rodent population that we have in Nova Scotia, as well as all of the stagnant water sources, it makes perfect sense to me that we would be the highest prevalence in the country,” said Dr. Katie O’Hanley with the North End Animal Hospital.

There was a lepto outbreak in Halifax in 2017 with 20 to 30 cases being sent to an emergency clinic.

Dogs can contract leptospirosis by drinking from water sources contaminated with urine from an infected animal. (Frank Augstein/Associated Press)

“I think a lot of people are more aware of it now and are vaccinating their dogs for it,” O’Hanley said.

She said her clinic isn’t seeing many cases of lepto right now, but cautions that may be due to a lack of testing for it.

“I think that lepto is a lot more prevalent than we think it is,” O’Hanley said. “Just because we only get five to 10 positive tests doesn’t mean that there’s not more out there.”


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