SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) - Veterinarians in San Francisco have a new warning for dog owners.
They say there are now six confirmed cases of an infectious disease from bacteria that have sickened dogs.
At San Francisco Veterinary Specialists, a 24-hour pet hospital in the Potrero Hill neighborhood, the staff says they have treated five of the six cases of here. Two dogs have died. One death was reported just Monday.
Dr. Staci Goussev says the staff at SF Veterinary Specialists has seen an unusually high number of dogs infected with a disease called leptospirosis.
"You don't want to panic, but it's something you definitely should be aware of," says Dr. Goussev.
The vet says in previous years, there were one or two cases annually. But in just the past two months there have been six known cases so far.
"Rodents, possums and skunks; a lot of these animals are just in the wild. When they urinate they carry this disease, "says Dr. Goussev.
The hospital's staff says a dog named Gertie, died at the end of January from becoming infected with leptospirosis.
The owner suspects the 13-year-old was infected at John McLaren Park where she would often play.
The spiral shaped bacteria spreads through the urine of infected wild animals.
Dogs often come into contact with the urine, while drinking water from puddles or a pond.
"The urine is going to contain these bacteria and now with all this recent rainfall, it's going to wash those bacteria into our streams, lakes, ponds, puddles and that's how our dogs are being exposed to it," says Dr. Goussev.
The bacteria can live in standing water for weeks or even months.
At John McLaren Park, dog owners say they've heard of leptospirosis, but don't know much about it and they're concerned.
"You better believe it. They're like my kids. They're family, "says Roy Castrejon who has two dogs.
The disease is preventable with a vaccine. But that particular vaccine is not part of the core group of vaccinations most vets give annually. Dog owners need to ask for it specifically.
"I looked at my dogs records and they didn't get it, so I'm actually going to a vaccine clinic to get the vaccines Saturday morning first thing," says Ren Volpe who owns three dogs and has a dog grooming service.
Volpe says she is informing all her clients about leptospirosis.
Symptoms include loss of appetite, muscle tenderness and vomiting. Dog owners are advised to check for yellowing inside the dog's ears.
"Look at the insides of their ears and the whites of their eyes," says Dr. Goussev.
Veterinarians say the disease is treatable with antibiotics if caught early enough.
Most veterinarian offices carry the vaccines.
Humans can also get infected. Most often, they get it from swimming in contaminated water.