The first official case of a dog testing positive for the bacterial infection leptospirosis in Kodiak was found in a 9-year-old Irish setter on Aug. 9, according to the Kodiak Veterinary Clinic. 

Although residents should not be overly concerned, dogs in Kodiak should get vaccinated, Dr. Emily Iacobucci said. “With the information that we have now, we recommend vaccinating because it’s the best thing that we can do.”

The Kodiak Veterinary Clinic carries the vaccines for four of the bacteria’s six strains, Iacobucci said. 

The infected dog was staying at a fish camp on the south side of Kodiak Island when she came into contact with the bacteria, Iacobucci said. Four days after the dog was infected, she was brought to the Kodiak Veterinary Clinic. 

“We’ve not really seen an official case here before, and we don’t typically vaccinate for it, but all of her symptoms fit with it,” Iacobucci said. 

The dog was taken to an intensive care unit in Anchorage, and was euthanized, Iacobucci said.  

“I got to speak with a doctor that took over her care there. And they made sure to collect blood and submit her blood for testing. And she was positive for all six streams of leptospirosis,” Iacobucci said.

The other dog in the household tested negative and did not show any signs of being exposed to the bacteria. 

Because leptospirosis is a water-borne bacteria, it can enter an animal’s or human’s system when they drink water that contains the bacteria, or it can be contracted through cracks or cuts in the skin, she said. The virus is shed through urine. 

Canines that contract the bacteria can demonstrate a wide range of symptoms — from the infected dog not feeling well, to more severe symptoms, such as kidney failure, Iacobucci said. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, some infected pets show no symptoms. 

Without treatment, leptospirosis can lead to kidney damage, meningitis (inflammation of the membrane around the brain and spinal cord), liver failure, respiratory distress, and even death, according to the CDC website. 

There is not a lot of information about leptospirosis in Alaska, Iacobucci said. 

“Because we have such a high population of dogs that travel from here to other places, especially to Hawaii, we carry the vaccine here and recommend it,” Iacobucci said.

The veterinary clinic has not routinely vaccinated for leptospirosis for dogs living in Kodiak, because there had not previously not been many reported cases of the bacteria, Iacobucci added. 

Other leptospirosis cases were reported in November 2017 in California sea lions that migrate to the Pacific Northwest and Alaska during the winter, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association fisheries website. 

To prevent pets from becoming infected with the bacteria, the CDC also recommends keeping rodent problems under control. 

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