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Hot Weather Increases Leptospirosis Risk

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Ashley Hughes gets her dog, Poppy, vaccinated against leptospirosis: a bacterial disease that spikes in the summer.
Rebecca Sheir
Ashley Hughes gets her dog, Poppy, vaccinated against leptospirosis: a bacterial disease that spikes in the summer.

By Rebecca Sheir

Temperatures in the D.C. area are expected to soar into the hundreds this weekend.

During hot days, canines face a higher risk of catching a potentially life-threatening bacterial disease.

Dr. Ashley Hughes and her dog, Poppy, often walk through Rock Creek Park. But the veterinarian at Friendship Hospital for Animals says they wouldn’t do it if Poppy was not vaccinated against leptospirosis: a bacterial disease transmitted by rodent urine.

"A rat, opossum or raccoon will pee in a puddle or some mud, and a dog can drink out of the puddle or step in it,” Hughes explains.

She says it’s worse in warmer weather, since "you need puddles sitting around murky and warm for the bacteria to replicate."

Lepto can cause vomiting, diarrhea, even kidney and liver dysfunction. If diagnosed early, the disease can be treated with antibiotics in dogs, and in people, since humans can get lepto, too.


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