Study finds Nova Scotia has highest rate of leptospirosis in dogs

A new study indicates that Nova Scotia has the highest percentage of dogs testing positive for a life-threatening disease than anywhere else in the country.

Leptospirosis, also called lepto, is a bacterial infection in dogs that kills over 25% of infected animals.

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

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

Nova Scotia had the highest rate of lepto cases with 19% testing positive. Ontario was second with 10%.

Dr. Jason Stull of the Atlantic Veterinary College called Nova Scotia’s test positivity rate “quite concerning.” (Nicola MacLeod/CBC)

Manitoba and Alberta had the lowest rate of positive tests at just 1%.

“When we see numbers that high at almost 20%, I would say that’s quite concerning,” said Dr. Jason Stull, assistant professor at the Atlantic Veterinary College.

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

The study looked at the age, gender and breed of the dogs, as well as when the positive test was taken.

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

Halifax vet not surprised by study results

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

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

There was a lepto outbreak in Halifax in 2017 and 20-30 cases were referred to an emergency clinic.

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

“I think a lot of people are more aware of it now and are getting their dogs vaccinated,” 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 lepto is much more prevalent than we think,” O’Hanley said. “Just because we’re only getting five to 10 positive tests doesn’t mean there aren’t more.”