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Rare Infection Spread By Rat Urine Leaves At Least 3 Dogs Dead In New Jersey

PARAMUS, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- At least three dogs were killed and two others were sickened by a rat-borne disease in northern New Jersey.

Leptospirosis, known in some parts of the world it's called mud fever or swamp fever, is a rare bacterial infection spread by rodent urine.

The Blue Pearl Veterinary Hospital in Paramus has recently treated five dogs. Three of the dogs died. It was too late for antibiotics and the animals suffered organ failure, WCBS 880's Sean Adams reported.

Last month, leptospirosis killed a man in the Bronx and sickened others.

Blue Pearl's critical care specialist Benjamin Davidson suspects the bacteria thrived in wet environments during the mild winter.

"Once it gets into the bloodstream it starts to cause inflammation inside of blood vessels in various organs, one of the more common things to occur is kidney failure and sometimes it can affect the lungs, it can affect the liver," Davidson said. "If left untreated a lot of cases do become fatal."

Davidson said early recognition and treatment is key to fighting the disease.

"There is a vaccine which can be given, so I think it's important that pet families contact their primary veterinarian and get their pets vaccinated," Davidson said. "Once we start antibiotic therapy the level of the organism in the urine decreases quite rapidly."

Pet owners should keep an eye out for lethargy, vomiting and diarrhea.

At present the Health Department says there are no human cases of leptospirosis in New Jersey.

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