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Infectious diseases are on everyone's mind right now -- and even dogs aren't safe. A disease that can be deadly for dogs (and humans) is making its way through the northwest suburbs of Chicago lately. Its called Leptospirosis.

Without treatment, Leptospirosis can lead to kidney damage, meningitis, liver failure, respiratory distress, and even death, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, which says that both humans and animals can transmit the disease, even if they themselves are not made ill by it.

In the Buffalo Grove area of suburban Chicago, three dogs have already died from it. According to Dr. Kerri Marshall, Chief Veterinary Officer of Trupanion, a company that provides pet health insurance, the disease is transmitted through urine.

"Dogs can pick it up by sniffing, drinking or stepping in a wild animal's urine like a raccoon, rat or a opossum. They then can go to a dog park and lick a healthy dog and transmit it to them just by licking them which is usually how it happens," she said. "Cattle get it a lot when wild animals urinate in streams and then the cattle drink from it."

This seems to be the time of year that it is most prevalent because it's getting colder and animals are out and about looking for food. If your dog is kept outside and you have wild critters running around your pup is at risk. The infection can take anywhere from 4-12 days to show up.

Some things to look for:

  • lethargy;
  • frequent urination;
  • not urinating;
  • vomiting;
  • lack of appetite; and 
  • fever.

"Get to the vet at once -- this is something that acts quickly and affects the kidneys. 80-90% will get sick from this," Marshall said. "It can be prevented with a vaccine. It is usually given when your puppy gets its first shots. It is so important to get the population vaccinated for it." 

The disease is expensive to treat. A single case can cost $9,000 or more. One recent case Marshall mentioned was $12,000.

Most cases  are treated with antibiotics, but if they have to do dialysis or kidney repair, the expense climbs rapidly.

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