A Collin County veterinarian is warning pet owners about a rare disease after he confirmed two cases that left two dogs dead.
Dr. Shawn Messonier, of Paws and Claws Animal Clinic in Plano, said the dogs had contracted leptospirosis, which is a bacterial disease that can affect both animals and humans.
"We actually did autopsies on them and they had leptospirosis bacteria all throughout their liver and kidneys," Messonier said. "The bad news is because the owner waited too long to bring them in, the infection was already too severe and we weren't able to save them."
Messonier said he is currently awaiting test results on two other dogs that could possibly have the disease.
One of those dogs is "Puggles," a 10-year-old pug owned by Willie Meyers. Meyers said the dog came to her with a dead rat in her mouth.
"I'm a nervous wreck. She's my baby," Meyers said. "I'm hoping it's OK. If it isn't OK, it's early enough that hopefully she can be successfully treated."
A few days later, Meyers got the results of Puggles' test. Fortunately, she doesn't have leptospirosis.
Messonier advises pet owners to have a blood test done if they believe their animal is at risk.
Symptoms can include lethargy, loss of appetite, vomiting and diarrhea.
But the tell-tale sign is if your pet has been around rats or rodent droppings, which is how leptospirosis is spread.
"Don't wait for your pet to get sick," Messonier said. "If there's any issue whatsoever – if you've seen one rat in the yard – it's very inexpensive to have your dog tested. And if the test is positive, you can treat them before they need to be hospitalized."
The cases Messonier has seen may have to do with an uptick in rat activity in certain areas and could be related to their breeding cycles or increased construction.
"It forces them to go out of their natural environment to go find food and water," said Jeff Overstreet, owner of Bug Zone Pest Control in Plano.
Overstreet said they have seen a 20-percent spike in rat-related calls in the last several weeks.
Collin County Animal Services and Plano Animal Services Department have not had any cases of leptospirosis reported. Collin County's Health Department has not had any reported human cases either.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Foundation, currently available vaccines effectively prevent leptospirosis and protect dogs for at least 12 months. However, Messonier warned about possible adverse side effects for pets.