San Francisco

Dogs Falling Ill From Dangerous Hidden Bacteria at SF Parks

Veterinarians warn that infectious bacteria from wild-animal urine lurks in puddles and saturated fields around the city

A hidden danger in water-logged San Francisco parks is making dogs sick at a heightened rate, according to veterinarians.

Wild animals such as skunks, racoons, coyotes and rodents urinate and excrete bacteria in their urine. Then when dogs go to the parks and drink the water, they get infected, veterinarians say.

The specific illness is called leptospirosis, or lepto. The bacteria is usually present where there is wildlife. But the rain and puddles are helping to spread it around.

Veteranarians say lepto symptoms include no appetite, vomiting and diarrhea. Without treatment, infected dogs often suffer kidney failure.

San Francisco Veteranary Specialists says it has seen five cases in three months, compared with an average of two per year. Two of the five dogs the hospital treated didn't survive.

Dog walker Sandra Kwan has been taking precautions.

"I cleaned all my leashes, all water bowls," she said.

Lepto is easily spread in dog urine, vets say. People can be infected too.

Kwan has urged her clients to vaccinate. She took her own dog in for a vaccination Monday night.

"Worst-case scenario is death," she said. "I don't want that to happen to my dog. If it's going around, and if it's not gonna hurt her to vaccinate, why not?"

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