DENVER - At Beat Valley Veterinary Care Center, 2111 S. Sheridan, a Dachshund named Ginger is in the isolation room, one of a growing number of small-breed dogs that have recently contracted a bacterial infection called leptospirosis.
"Today alone, we had four clients that we came in contact with that their pet had been or is currently infected with leptospirosis," said Carola Stevenson, a veterinarian at Bear Valley Veterinary Care Center. "The issue is that it is potentially contagious to humans as well if the human comes in contact with pet's urine."
In the past, the Lepto vaccine was mostly given to hunting dogs or dogs that went into the mountains because it is spread through the urine of wildlife, including raccoons, coyotes and foxes. But Stevenson said that is changing on the Front Range, where dogs are contracting it in their own backyards.
"Wildlife pass through and leave their urine, and dogs then go into the backyard," said Stevenson.
She is starting to recommend the vaccine for all breeds because of the increase in cases and how serious the disease can be.
Ginger's owner, Diana Reynolds, didn't get the $25 vaccine because she didn't think her little dog was at risk.
Now, she's facing thousands in hospital bills and Ginger isn't out of the woods.
"It's very sad to us to think that she may not recover. We could possibly lose her," said Reynolds. "We're just hoping she will be able to come home."
The family has started a fundraiser to help pay for the bills. For more information, click here.
The symptoms of lepto may look like the flu, with fever, decreased appetite and vomiting, but can progress to kidney and liver failure.
The disease is treatable with antibiotics and IV therapy if caught early enough before severe organ damage.
The vaccine is somewhat controversial because it doesn't protect against all variations of the disease, may not last a full year, and has a negative reaction more frequently than common vaccinations.
"We didn't feel like Ginger would be in harm because she doesn't come in contact with wild animals," said Reynolds. "But now, I would tell people to just take the precaution for their pets."
According to the Centers for Disease Control leptospirosis affects humans and animals. In humans, it can cause a wide range of symptoms, some of which may be mistaken for other diseases. Some infected persons, however, may have no symptoms at all.
Without treatment, leptospirosis can lead to kidney damage, meningitis (inflammation of the membrane around the brain and spinal cord), liver failure, respiratory distress, and even death.