Rise in cases of dogs suspected of having infectious bacterial disease leptospirosis

Rise in cases of dogs suspected of having infectious bacterial disease leptospirosis
Photo: Sunny Heights Day Care Centre/Facebook
7 dog fatalities among the 18 suspected cases of leptospirosis
Published: 12:25 PM, July 20, 2016
Updated: 6:58 AM, July 21, 2016

SINGAPORE — The Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) has reported a spike in cases of dogs suspected of having leptospirosis, an infectious bacterial disease that can infect animals and humans, and is potentially fatal if untreated.

From zero animal cases reported by veterinarians in 2014, the AVA received two notifications between September and December last year and 18 this year. One of these 18 cases has positive laboratory test results so far. 

Twelve of the notifications this year, received between June 27 and July 14, were associated with the Sunny Heights Day Care Centre for dogs. Five of these dogs have died. 

Of the remaining six cases at other locations, two dogs have died.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) has also received one report of a human case whose pet dog had attended the centre. This was among the 14 cases reported to the MOH this year, as of July 13. The ministry has received about 20 to 30 reports of human cases of leptospirosis each year between 2012 and 2015.

The AVA has since issued an isolation order on Sunny Heights Day Care Centre, prohibiting any dog from entering or leaving the premises without its authorisation, as well as taken environmental samples for leptospirosis testing. The centre also has to conduct a thorough cleaning and disinfection of the premises, said the AVA in a joint statement with the MOH and National Environment Agency (NEA) on Wednesday (July 20). Investigations into the case are ongoing.

Leptospirosis can be transmitted to humans and animals through cuts and abrasions of the skin, or through mucous membranes with water contaminated with the urine of infected animals. While animals can be infected and act as a source of infection, rodents are considered the primary source of infection for human beings.

An inspection of Sunny Heights Day Care Centre and its vicinity by the NEA on July 12 found no signs of rat activity. The centre’s head of operations Derrick Tan told TODAY one client alerted them to the possible outbreak in end-June and the client’s dog had to be put down after undergoing clinical tests. He added that they shut the premises voluntarily on July 2 to undergo daily cleaning and disinfection, with professional advice from vets and the AVA. 

Signs of leptospirosis in dogs include fever, vomiting, diarrhoea, jaundice and failure to produce urine. Dogs that have been exposed to infected animals and are showing such symptoms should be given veterinary treatment immediately.

Signs of leptospirosis in humans include fever, headache, decreased appetite, chills, muscle aches, vomiting, jaundice, red eyes, abdominal pain, diarrhoea and rashes. Without treatment, leptospirosis could be fatal.

To help protect against leptospirosis infection, the AVA has advised dog owners to keep their dogs up to date with their vaccinations, and to reduce their exposure to water or soil that may be contaminated, such as areas that are home to small mammals, including bats, rats and other rodents. Owners of pets with leptospirosis should avoid contact with urine, blood or tissue. If necessary, protective covering such as gloves should be worn. 

Owners should also wash their hands with soap after handling their pet or anything that might have the pet’s excrement on it. Surfaces that might be contaminated or contain urine from an infected pet should be cleaned using antibacterial cleaning solutions or household bleach.