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Bacterial disease infecting sea lions poses threat to dogs

Beach bacteria pose threat to pets as well as marine mammals
Beach bacteria pose threat to pets as well as marine mammals 02:54

SAUSALITO -- The Marine Mammal Center is seeing an uptick in sea lions infected with a deadly disease. While it can be fatal to sea lions, it can also be deadly for your pet dog. 

For Bridgette Gras and James Waltz, their pup, Charlie Brown, is an adored member of the family.

"He's everything. He's family. He's company," Waltz said.

The Marine Mammal Center is sending out an alert to dog owners to keep your pooch a safe distance from sea lions.

"Dogs can be impacted by leptospirosis and it can be fatal to dogs," said Giancarlo Rulli, a spokesperson for the center.

Rulli said Marine Mammal Center staff have seen half a dozen sea lions infected by leptospirosis come ashore, especially in the area around Bodega Bay. The center is treating some of the patients, hoping to bring them back to full health.

"Just because of the severity of the disease, by the time these animals are coming to shore about one-third are returned back to the wild and that's only because the disease has already taken root by the time they are coming to shore," Rulli said.

The center's advice is to keep dogs away from sea lions. Those with leptospirosis will appear lethargic and have their flippers tucked close to their bodies.

For James Waltz, the key to protecting Charlie Brown, is to keep him leashed in public areas.

"We never ever allowed them to be away from where we were. We always knew what they were doing. It's a responsibility of ownership."

If a dog does get infected, there is usually a one- to two-week delay before symptoms appear. Those symptoms can include fever and kidney and liver failure. If your dog is around water often, there is a vaccine for leptospirosis.

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