Days after news reports about a bacterial outbreak that has been making dogs sick, veterinarians across the Garden State are getting bombarded with questions from concerned pet owners.

“They’ve heard their dog can get sick from drinking water, they’ve heard their pet can die from it, so we have the conversation telling them about the vaccine and treatment that‘s available,” said Christopher Slade, a veterinarian at Edgebrook Animal Hospital in East Brunswick.

Leptospirosis is a bacteria that can be passed to dogs from the urine of rats, squirrels and other small animals.

“I think they should be concerned about it and educated about it. We have seen an increased rise in New Jersey,” Slade said. If caught early enough, “most of the animals are going to get better, it’s treated with antibiotics and some animals need to be hospitalized."

So how do you know if a dog might have leptospirosis?

“They will start to become lethargic. Often they’re drinking more, peeing more. They’re probably off their food. Oftentimes they’re vomiting or having diarrhea. They’re pretty sick,” said Mike Yurkus, a vet at Middletown Animal Hospital.

He stressed while lepto is serious, “it’s potentially treatable. It is a bacteria. If you catch it in time the dog will be fine.”

Peter Falk, a vet at Ocean County Veterinary Hospital, pointed out “it just may be like the pet is just not doing right. They may have a fever, they may have a loss of appetite, they may see blood in the urine.”

The disease can be diagnosed with a blood test.

Slade added “if a dog is diagnosed with it they want to treat all the dogs in the household because there’s a good chance they all have the bacteria.”

He also pointed out if a dog has leptospirosis it can be passed to a human through contact with the dog’s urine, and it’s potentially fatal in humans as well as canines.

"Nobody has to panic about lepto but it’s a serious disease," Yurkus said. "You should be on the lookout for it, try to protect your pets from it and if you’re concerned your animal has it, you should contact your vet.”

You can contact reporter David Matthau at

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