Dog owners in Australia are being warned of a deadly bacterial disease known as leptospirosis after it was detected in both NSW and the Northern Territory.

The disease is usually contracted in contaminated bodies of water or from the urine of infected animals. It is most commonly from rats.

Although a range of animals such as cattle, pigs and horses are at risk, there are fears for dogs with the infection found in the suburbs of Sydney and Darwin.

Cases of leptospirosis have been detected in recent days in NSW’s Hunter region, as well as Marrickville and the Northern Beaches.

Symptoms include fever, severe headache, sore muscles, chills, vomiting and red eyes, and it can cause kidney failure, jaundice, respiratory complications and, in some extreme circumstances, death.

Dr Andrew Cornwell from Cardiff Veterinary Hospital warned a positive case had been confirmed in the Hunter region last week and urged pet owners to consider getting their animals vaccinated against the disease.

Cornwell added that although the vaccines were not typically part of a pet owner’s core vaccination program, the shots are widely available at veterinarians across the country

Meanwhile, NT Health Director of the Centre for Disease Control, Dr Vicki Krause warned last month cases had been reported in the Northern Territory, with between one and four cases found per year in the NT.

Known hotspots in the NT for leptospirosis exposure include the Fogg Dam and Harrison Dam areas in Greater Darwin, rural Darwin, the Katherine district, Finniss River, Tipperary, Daly River and Gunbalanya.

Protecting your dog

Chief Veterinarian at RSPCA Dr Liz Arnott said given the high facility rate of the disease, it was crucial to seek medical attention if your dog became ill.

“But unfortunately, it is hard to know if your dog has been exposed to the bacteria until they are unwell. One of the first signs of exposure is lethargy. Other common symptoms include vomiting and diarrhoea, as well as loss of appetite.

“If your dog is experiencing any of these symptoms, you should seek immediate veterinary attention.”

Liz also reminded pet owners there were vaccination options for those dogs deemed at a high risk.

Pet owners should be mindful humans can also contract the disease and are urged to practice good hygiene and to wash your hands after dealing with your pet.

Image: Getty Images

This article first appeared on OverSixty.