Concern over a bacterial infection that has affected nearly a dozen dogs in Fresno has led a rescue and shelter organization to temporarily close its dog park for cleaning.
Valley Animal Center’s dog park near Fresno International Airport will be closed until Wednesday while it is scrubbed as a precaution against leptospirosis.
No case of leptospirosis has been associated with the Dr. James W. Thornton Dog Park , but a dog that contracted the disease elsewhere had visited recently.
“The closure is a voluntary closure for cleaning,” said Kelly Joos, executive director of Valley Animal Center.
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Valley Animal Center also now will require all dogs visiting the park to be vaccinated for leptospirosis, she said.
The disease, which affects pets and people, is spread through contact with an infected animal’s urine. The infection typically is found in water and soil and the environment can remain contaminated for weeks or months.
There have been at least 11 confirmed cases of the disease reported in dogs this year, according to Walter Salvari, a spokesman for the Central California Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
There hasn’t been this type of number that appeared over a relatively short period of time.
Veterinarian Mark Nample
A common denominator in the cases: visits to dog parks at El Capitan and Woodward parks, which are operated by the city of Fresno.
The El Capitan dog park in northwest Fresno was closed in July for about a day and a half, and small pools and water containers that can harbor the infection were removed, said Tony Hernandez, parks manager. The dog park at Woodward in northeast Fresno was not closed, but water containers were removed, Hernandez said.
The two city parks were common places where infected dogs had frequented, but Hernandez said it can’t be said with certainty that the dogs became infected at the city parks. No soil or other samples were collected at El Capitan and Woodward to confirm a contamination, Hernandez said.
But the city has posted signs to alert pet owners that cases of leptospirosis have been reported in dogs that have visited local parks. The city also posted a sign at its dog park at Roeding Park, which has not been associated with illness.
Valley Animal Center said on its website that it has safety precautions to ensure its park does not become contaminated, including regular disinfection of hard surfaces and monitoring of chlorine levels in the pool. The temporary closure for deep cleaning is an added precaution, it said. And the new policy requiring vaccination will be enforced.
Fresno is not requiring dogs be vaccinated to visit city dog parks, because it could not assure compliance, Hernandez said. But vaccination is recommended, he said.
The vaccine requires two shots about three weeks apart for full immunization, said Mark Nample, a veterinarian with Cedar Veterinary Hospital. A booster is required once a year, thereafter.
Symptoms in dogs include fever, vomiting, weakness and loss of appetite, Nample said. The symptoms typically occur within five to 14 days. If not treated with antibiotics, the infection can cause kidney and liver failures.
People who are infected typically have flu-like symptoms, he said. They should consult a doctor.
The Central California Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is offering the dog vaccine for $6 at its hospital.
Appointments should be made Monday through Friday by calling 559-237-1125. A walk-in clinic is available from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturdays.
To prevent leptospirosis
▪ Do not share your dog’s wading pool with other dogs
▪ Wear closed shoes when visiting dog parks
▪ Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after playing with, handling, or picking up after your pet
▪ Vaccinate your pet with all required vaccines, including the leptospirosis vaccine
▪ Contact your veterinarian if your pet is ill to rule out leptospirosis and/or obtain necessary treatment