Rodent-borne disease could be dangerous for pets

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - A FOX 8 special report revealed potentially deadly diseases are crawling across New Orleans in rats. And as we move into the warmer months, pet owners may want to be careful of one bacteria in particular.

"If you are person that's in the city and you are taking your dog for a walk let's say down in the French Quarter, you're not going to want them drinking out of a standing puddle. So standing water after a big rain, anything like that, you're not going to want them drinking out of that water," said Low Cost Animal Medical Center Operations Manager Tracey Pearson.

That's because it could expose them to a dangerous disease called Leptospirosis.

"It can be fatal," said Pearson.

As we told you in February, Tulane researchers have found that potentially deadly bacteria in New Orleans rats. Rodents can transmit the disease through their urine and droppings.

"I don't want to scare anybody, but it's something that I always say be cautious about and take precautions to be sure that you're potentially not at risk," said Michael Blum in February.

Blum who heads up "The New Orleans Rat Project" had that message for humans when we spoke to him. But, your pets could also be at risk.

"Rodents in general, small mammals will transmit Leptospira by way of excreting into waterways, so Leptospira will be in waterways, canals, ditches what not, puddles even, and then by virtue of perhaps even just sticking your hand in contaminated water you can be infected by the bacteria," said Blum back in February.

According to the CDC, you can help prevent infection by keeping rodents under control and you can also vaccinate your pets against the disease.

"If you have an inkling, if you are concerned at all, definitely vaccinate," said Pearson.

We checked with the state health department, they tell us they have not seen an increase in rat-related illness in Louisiana.

Copyright WVUE 2017. All rights reserved.