Puppy dies of rat disease in New York City. Other pet owners need to know that


Roxy Zafar had her pup disco only 10 days before he developed leptospirosis and died days later. Now she wants other pet owners to be aware of the disease so that they don’t suffer the same loss.

Zafar, 34, lives on Manhattan’s Upper West Side and told Fox News that she had never heard of leptospirosis until last month when disco fell ill with the disease.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that can affect animals and humans and is spread through the urine of infected animals. In New York City, rodents or other dogs are the top offenders, Carolyn Brown, DVM, vice president of medicine, ASPCA Community Medicine, told Fox News in an email.

According to Brown, leptospirosis can cause kidney or liver damage and “sometimes even death from organ damage”.

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Zafar told Fox News that she got her puppy disco on October 3rd. She said the energetic pup was well used to New York City by October 13, when he was “more lehargic than usual,” Zafar said.

Roxy Zafar, 34, of New York City, tells Fox News that her new pup Disco died of leptospirosis, a bacterial disease transmitted through rat urine, less than two weeks after getting it in October. (Courtesy Roxy Zafar)

That night Zafar aid Disco began to vomit and even though he was still trying to eat, nothing could hold back. Zafar called a nearby vet who told her to wait overnight in case it was just an upset stomach.

It didn’t get any better for the 12 week old disco. Zafar said he “lost weight very quickly overnight,” so Zafar and her husband had Disco admitted to their local veterinary clinic the next morning.

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After a few days at the veterinary clinic, Disco continued to decline. Vets told Zafar and her husband that Disco’s best chance of survival is being moved to another veterinary clinic for $ 30,000 worth of dialysis treatment. According to Zafar, the vet told her that Disco had less than a 20% chance of recovery and even if he did recover, it would be possible for him to experience lifelong organ damage.

Zafar said she got disco on October 3rd and he became

Zafar said she got a disco on October 3rd and he got “lethargic” on October 13th. That night he started vomiting and the next day she had him admitted to a veterinary clinic. (Courtesy Roxy Zafar)

Zafar said she and her husband had decided to put Disco to sleep, which they “decided at the time as the only humane option”.

“He was just a little puppy and didn’t know what was going on, so we didn’t want to be selfish and do that to him,” said Zafar.

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After Disco’s death, Zafar said she created a flyer about leptospirosis that she posted on a local Facebook group to warn other pet owners.

“Immediately after his death … I was obviously shocked, but somehow activated. I really just wanted to spread it,” said Zafar. “I felt like I had so little control over what happened to disco so I was like, OK, what can I control to move forward?”

Vets told Zafar and her husband that Disco's best chance of survival is being moved to another veterinary clinic for $ 30,000 worth of dialysis treatment.  However, disco still had a slim chance of recovery.  (Courtesy Roxy Zafar)

Vets told Zafar and her husband that Disco’s best chance of survival is being moved to another veterinary clinic for $ 30,000 worth of dialysis treatment. However, disco still had a slim chance of recovery. (Courtesy Roxy Zafar)

Dr. Jeremy Kimmelstiel, a veterinarian at Bond Vet in New York City, told Fox News that leptospirosis was previously considered a suburban or rural problem because the disease was known to be transmitted through the urine of deer, skunks and raccoons. For the past 10 years, the disease has been identified in rats, making it a problem in urban areas as well.

In fact, there has been an increase in human leptospirosis cases in New York City, according to the New York Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. There were 14 cases of leptospirosis in humans as of September. Of these cases, 13 were “hospitalized with acute kidney and liver failure”. One of the 13 people who had to be hospitalized even died.

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Brown, with the ASPCA, told Fox that cases of leptospirosis are most common “in summer and fall and in warmer areas with high annual rainfall”.

Dogs with leptospirosis can show signs of fever, muscle tenderness, and lethargy, Brown says. She also said other signs were “loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, jaundice, inflammation of the eyes, bloody nose, urine or stool, and changes in the amount and frequency of urination”.

Zafar said she and her husband decided to put disco to sleep, which they did

Zafar said she and her husband had decided to put Disco to sleep, which they “decided at the time as the only humane option”. (Courtesy Roxy Zafar)

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Kimmelstiel told Fox that in some of the best cases, dogs may have no symptoms other than a “day off.” Mild versions of the disease can be treated with antibiotics, while more moderate versions may require hospitalization, Kimmelstiel said.

He said the most severe forms of leptospirosis are also “the smallest percentage” of the disease that veterinarians see.

Zafar said to Fox:

Zafar told Fox: “We are really sad. He was part of our family. We miss him every day.” (Courtesy Roxy Zafar)

According to Dr. Nahvid Etedali, an employed physician at NYC’s Animal Medical Center, these severe forms of leptospirosis can require expensive dialysis treatments.

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Etedali told Fox News that pet owners should be aware of what their dogs are getting into and make sure their dogs don’t lick or drink from puddles or standing water – especially after heavy rainfall when vets see higher numbers of leptospirosis cases .

The best thing pet owners can do, however, is to get their pets vaccinated against leptospirosis every year, Etedali, Kimmelstiel and Brown told Fox.

“I think sometimes people really don’t think their dog is really at high risk because in New York we obviously have a lot of dogs that pretty much leave their apartment to pee and then come back in,” said Etedali. “But we live in New York, we definitely have a huge population of rats, and that’s a significant source or transmission, so I think it’s important for dogs here.”

Zafar told Fox the puppy wasn’t vaccinated for the disease because she had never heard of leptospirosis before Disco got sick – even though he had his DHPP vaccine and was scheduled for his other major vaccines. Zafar said she wished she knew about leptospirosis and her vaccine, so she could have asked vets when Disco could get his vaccination.

“We are really sad,” said Zafar. “He was part of our family. We miss him every day.”

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