Warning for Dog Owners! Deadly Illness Spread by Rats

September 2, 2010 Updated Sep 2, 2010 at 5:45 PM EDT

By WKBW News

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September 2, 2010 Updated Sep 2, 2010 at 5:45 PM EDT

Buffalo, N.Y. (WKBW-TV) - It wasn't too often you'd find Melissa Chester-- without her 7-year old dog, Peperoncini.
"He was like my child he was the love of my life-- my companion," says Chester.
But last week? Out of the blue, her healthy dog?
"He started vomiting in the middle of the night."
Numerous tests were performed-- thousands of dollars were spent on treatment-- but sadly?
"The only decision we could make was unfortunately to have him euthanized," says Chester.
Doctors think Peperoncini died of what's known as leptospirosis
"We're talking about a bacteria carried in the urine of small animals," says Doctor of Veterinarian Medicine, R. Reed Stevens from the Ellicott Small Animal Hospital.
"Rats, mice, moles, squirrels-- skunk, even deer. It is carried in urine in these small animals-- they urinate in puddles-- or even in grass and the dog can lick that grass-- drink from that puddle-- and be contaminated with the disease," say Stevens.
It's very hard to detect.
"It's a disease that hides itself very well-- your dog will have unspecific signs-- vomiting-- not feeling well-- not eating," Stevens said.
Frequently-- by the time it's diagnosed-- it's too late.
But there is a way to prevent it--- vaccines are available.
"It's an annual vaccine. It's very important people understand it's a once a year vaccination," Stevens said.
The vaccines will protect your dog from most strands of leptospirosis.
One shot-- that Melissa can tell you-- will save a lot of heartache.
"If this helps one person save their dog than it's beyond worth it because I miss my baby so much."

For more information on Leptospirosis click here: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dbmd/diseaseinfo/leptospirosis_g.htm