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Norwich Bulletin - 12/24/2006

Remembering Lola

This Christmas will be a little sadder for a work colleague of mine who has undergone the loss of her best friend; an English Bulldog named Lola, who succumbed to a little known disease called leptospirosis. I had never heard of it before and decided to make it my business to find out more and share with my readers.

At one time Helping Paws placed both dogs and cats. Working with another rescuer, an English Bulldog who was stubborn and animal aggressive came into care. A beautiful, young single social worker fell in love with this dog and they became a very unlikely pair. Lola and her owner spent a lot of time walking through the neighborhood, attracting all kinds of attention.

People frequently asked to meet her. One such neighbor was working in his garden and asked to meet Lola. Well, Lola decided she really liked his tulips and plowed right into his garden. As her owner tugged gently at her leash, Lola reacted in typical Bulldog fashion and flopped herself down, spread eagle, flattening a huge swath of tulips. Funny, this neighbor never again asked to pet her.

Lola was amazingly smart and just as stubborn. Her favorite game was watching her owner exercise on her yoga ball. As she stretched out on her back across the ball, Lola charged and knocked her over the back of the ball and then landed on her owners head. My favorite memories of Lola are the treasured Christmas cards I received every year featuring Lola and her new pair of ears. A reindeer, an elf, a bunny and wearing a baby bonnet – each Christmas brought a smile to my face as Lola’s grumpy face appeared in a cheery holiday card.

One day Lola got sick and her liver stopped functioning properly. Leptospirosis. A disease caused by a spiral bacteria called leptospires. It does not differentiate between humans and animals, domestic or wild. The disease can be serious, turning into a severe, life threatening illness which can affect the kidney, liver, brain, lung and heart. The disease is at first oftentimes mistaken for the flu, and it can be a hard one to recognize or even think about testing for.

The bacteria are spread through the urine of infected animals, which can get into the water or soil and survive there for weeks to months. Other animals and humans can become infected through contact with the urine, water or soil. It enters the body through your eyes, nose or mouth, or if your skin is broken from a cut or scratch. Drinking contaminated water is also a way that the disease is spread. Infected animals can live and continue to excrete bacteria for a few months or even several years.

Dogs can be infected by swimming in contaminated waters or digging in contaminated soil. Wild animals now frequent yards and barns and if any of them are infected, chances are it is a good possibility that your dog will become infected. Rats, mice and squirrel can also be carriers of the bacteria and there are plenty of all three in the country.

Unfortunately the clinical signs of the disease are varied and non specific. Common signs include fever, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, refusal to eat, severe weakness, depression or muscle pain. The biggest problem with all of these symptoms is they could signify a lot of different diseases and it is not usually the first thing a vet will consider.

If leptospirosis is diagnosed early enough, it is treatable with antibiotics and there is a better chance of survival before organ damage occurs. However, if the diagnosis comes later rather than earlier, as in Lola’s case, chances are your pet will not recover. Also, you need to be concerned about yourself too because you can be at risk if there is direct or indirect contact with your pets urine or blood. Cats very rarely become infected with this bacteria, but if they do, litterbox cleaning can also be a source of infection.

How sad that somehow Lola, who should have lived many more years with her special person, making people laugh at her antics, came down with this disease and sadder yet that her diagnosis came to late to save her life. I will miss her Christmas card this year.

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