Zoe, My Heart Dog.

Zoe, a 17-year-old Cockapoo, crossed over the Rainbow Bridge this past week. She was the Perfect Pup, never wanting for anything. Her goal in life, every day, was to just be by my side.

Thank you to DocB and her tech, Wren, both with Helping Hands Pet Hospice for your assistance and reassurance. Thank you to Joyce with Natures Pet Loss, who kindly took Zoe’s body for aquamation. Also, thank you to the staff at Medicine River Animal Hospital who always took such good care of Zoe as a senior dog. And, a special thanks to Jennifer at Pet Styles By Jennifer in Dunedin for your kind words.

Zoe was my shadow, and there is an emptiness, for sure. But, she was the happiest dog I’d ever had the pleasure of loving, so it will be easy to remember what a joy she was.


I Want A Purebred Dog.

Did you know that in Florida alone, almost every breed of dog has a rescue group? Volunteers donate their time and money to pull dogs from shelters, vet and foster them with the ultimate goal being to find someone that will want to adopt them. The volunteers also help with fundraising – soliciting for supplies, food and money. They attend community events with the adoptables to help socialize the dogs, give them exposure to the public and potential adopters.

Over the next couple of weekends, several Florida rescue groups are hosting their biggest fundraising events of the year. The money raised for each of these groups will help them care for the dogs currently in their care and to help save more dogs. If you’re thinking of adopting soon, consider visiting one of these events. Talk to some of the volunteers about the work they’re doing. You may find an opportunity to become a foster yourself – kind of a way to “test drive” a dog before actually adopting.

For the Seniors: Friday, November 13 – Wild West Casino Night. Ruth Eckerd Hall, 1111 N. McMullen Booth Road in Clearwater will be the site of this fun-filled benefit for Canine Estates. Live entertainment, gambling, silent auction, cash bar and hors d’oeuvres. This is a group that pulls smaller senior dogs from high kill shelters and nurses them back to health. To read more about what they do, visit www.CanineEstates.com

For the Corgis: Saturday, November 14 – Florida Corgi Picnic. Paradise Luxury Pet Resort in Palm Bay. Proceeds will benefit Corgi Aid. Visit http://www.CorgiAid.org for more information.

For the Dalmatians: Saturday, November 14 – Fall FestiDAL (formerly known as Dal-loween). Ferg’s Sports Bar & Grill, 1320 Central Avenue, St. Petersburg hosts the rescue group, Dalmatian Rescue of Tampa Bay. Silent auctions, drawings, games and doggie costume contest. Classic firetrucks. Live music. Nail clipping booth for the dogs. Oh, and Dal-licious treats. For more information, email DalDogEvents@msn.com or visit http://daretorescue.com

For the Boxers: Saturday, November 14 – Chili Cook-off. Second Chance Boxer Rescue Ranch, 6106 W. Knight’s Griffin Rd., Plant City. www.SaveABoxer.org

For the Poodles: Wednesday, November 18 – 2nd Annual Puttin’ On The Poodle. Michael’s On East, 1212 S. East Avenue in Sarasota will host Florida Poodle Rescue during this luncheon benefit. There will be an auction, shopping and lots of fun. Visit www.FloridaPoodleRescue.org

For the Dachshunds: Saturday, November 21 – 10th Annual Dox-A-Palooza. Sun-N-Fun Event Pavilion, 4175 Medulla Road, Lakeland. Billed as a “wienerful opportunity” to make a difference in the lives of fostered, adoptable Dachshunds. This festival-like event gets bigger every year and includes the ever-fantastic Wiener Races. Put on by the volunteers of D.A.R.E. – Dachshund Adoption Rescue And Education. Visit their website at www.DareToRescue.com

For the Boxers: Sunday, December 13 – 15th Annual Boxer Bash, hosted by Florida Boxer Rescue. The theme is Winter Wonderland and it all takes place at Wishing Well Barn, 4302 Pippin Road, Plant City. For more information on sponsorship opportunities, call 888.612.5782. This group has rescued and re-homed more than 4500 Boxers. For more information visit www.FLBR.org

The reasons people want to bring a dog into their homes are plentiful and varied – from teaching our children responsibility to wanting a companion. As the holidays approach, our wishes sometimes overtake common sense. The thought of watching a loved one unwrap a puppy or kitten might seem romantic or adorable. Sometimes, we succumb to the pressure of wanting to make someone so happy that we’ll seek out a solution that is not always the best choice. Please, don’t be tempted to buy a puppy from a store, when there are so many good dogs, puppies, cats and kittens available for adoption at shelters and rescue groups. Just visit the RESCUE page at The New Barker website to see a list of some of the shelters and rescue groups in Florida.

Lepto Who?

Photograph, courtesy of Paulette Keller.
Photograph, courtesy of Paulette Keller.

By Paulette Keller. First published in The New Barker dog magazine, December, 2007.

On Sunday, he didn’t finish his dinner. Monday, we were at the vet. Tuesday, his urine turned dark and the blood work showed liver problems. Wednesday, he was admitted to the vet hospital. The search began – why were his liver and kidneys failing? Was he poisoned? Did he eat a toxic plant? Did he contract an infectious disease and in all cases, from where or what?

He was our senior dog, one of three, living a coddled life in urban Tampa Bay. He took neighborhood walks, visits to local parks and out of town vacations. He was never outside alone. He wasn’t a grazer, scarfing up garbage.

When our veterinarian mentioned Leptospirosis as a possible diagnosis, I was stunned. Wait, we immunized them for that, right? Well, not exactly…and so my Leptospirosis learning started.

FROM A FORGOTTEN DISEASE TO AN EMERGING CONCERN. A Leptosprirosis (Lepto) internet search will give you over 1 million sites. It has been around for a long time and is found in many species: in the wild, in livestock and in our cats and dogs. Lepto is also a zoonotic disease, which means that it can be transmitted from animals to humans. A pet vaccine has long been available (1970’s), but with side effects. Not just painful, but some dogs were hypersensitive with severe allergic reactions. Since the disease threat seemed remote, the vaccine was recommended less often. Lepto was not on the radar screen.

In fact, until recently, Tampa Bay Veterinary Specialists of Largo received zero referrals for Leptospirosis -affected pets. TBVS Internal Medicine veterinarian Dr. Gary Oswald indicated that now see 10 to 15 cases a year, coming from urban and unincorporated areas. This is a significant increase. The total Lepto caseload is actually unknown, as many pets, like our dog, are treated by their primary vet.

SO WHAT HAPPENED? The Lepto bacteria includes over 200 strains or serovars – but most don’t cause illness. The original vaccine targeted the two, then most common, disease-causing strains. Now other strains are showing up in infected animals and previously immunized dogs were not protected. Dr. Oswald stated that Tampa Bay Veterinary Specialists see few cats with Lepto, but the new canine cases present with both liver and kidney problems, a double hit. Lepto can be cured by antibiotics, a good thing, although the damage to liver and kidneys can cause long-term complications.

On the good side: more recent vaccines are now multi-valent and reflect the most common, disease causing strains. Those vaccines to date, have few side effects. The down side is that it probably needs to be given at least annually.

IS MY DOG AT RISK? Lepto is spread many ways: when your pet is in contact with contaminated water or soil or when infected animals shed the leptospires in their urine. Maybe you don’t go to fairgrounds for dog shows (think exposure to cattle, livestock) or on hikes in forests (deer). But we do meet up with wildlife, even in our counties’ most densely populated sections. Our homes merge up to our treasured parks and preserves and new developments spring up out of once rural or farmland areas. Lepto likes fresh water, preferably stagnant, so the good news/bad news with our current drought is that there is less standing water, but the Lepto concentration may be higher in those shrinking pools. How often have we seen our dogs step in water and later at home lick their paws? And a break in the skin is all it takes.

Lepto is not in salt water and not in anything chlorinated such as your pool or drinking fountain. So if you and your canine companion live in a beach condo or offshore in a boat, frolic only in the Gulf and are not around other animals, your dog might not need the vaccine. The rest of us need to evaluate our lifestyle, do some research and as always, talk with our veterinarian.

A HAPPY ENDING. Not every Lepto infected dog presents as dramatically as ours did; a flu-like illness is more commonly seen, with fever, lethargy and reduced appetite. New testing methods help with the diagnosis of this potentially fatal disease. The key to this and any illness is knowing your pet’s normal behavior. Since Lepto is infectious, we quarantined our canine family to our property for a month. No parks, no dog club classes, no walks. Every trip outside, I carried a Clorox-water spray bottle and disinfected each dog’s urine deposits. We were quite a sight. Our senior dog recovered at home with antibiotics and supportive care. Two years later, he remains on once daily nutritional liver supplements and continues to enjoy life.

We don’t have a leptospirosis vaccine for humans, but we can help protect our cherished companions. Think about that.

UPDATE: There has been a recent outbreak of Leptospirosis in South Florida. Check out this television report from WPLG Local 10, Miami News.

Web link information provided by Dr. Oswald of Tampa Bay Veterinary Specialists: