Rainy Season Drives Testing Trends at Indiana Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory

By Lauren Bruce

As heavy rains swept across Indiana this summer, the prevalence of waterborne illnesses increased for animal populations in the state. "More water means more standing water, which can be an incubator for bacteria and parasites," said Dr. Craig Bowen, veterinary diagnostician at the Indiana Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (ADDL). With the prevalence of the summer rains, tests for canine leptospirosis and giardia saw a significant increase.

The ADDL, which is part of the College of Veterinary Medicine on Purdue’s West Lafayette campus, functions as a state laboratory focused on protecting the health of the animal population by providing diagnoses of animal diseases, including many that affect the human population.

"Canine leptospirosis (lepto) tends to be something carried through wildlife species," said Dr. Bowen. "As humans move into and spend time in the natural habitats for these animals, family pets come into contact with wildlife that harbor the bacteria."

Dr. Bowen further explained, "Infected wildlife, livestock, and domestic canines can serve as a source of lepto. Animals that come into contact with the bacteria risk kidney failure if left untreated." The bacteria is transmitted through urine that contaminates water sources, and can remain infectious for up to six months. Animals pick up the bacteria through a cut or break in the skin that comes into contact with contaminated water, or when they drink contaminated water.

Giardia is another illness that increases with rainy weather and affects the pet population. This intestinal parasite is often transmitted through ingesting dirty water or coming into contact with soil that has been contaminated with infected feces. Young pets, like puppies and kittens, have a higher risk of contracting this illness than adult dogs and cats.

Some veterinarians are able to test animals for lepto and giardia in their office, but those who do not have in-house laboratory facilities can send samples to a reference laboratory, like the ADDL, for diagnosis. ADDL specialists have access to sophisticated equipment for testing and provide data to the Indiana Board of Animal Health, which tracks animal health trends in Indiana over time. This approach assists in predicting, preventing, and controlling major disease outbreaks and facilitates the allocation of state resources to animal health concerns.

Pet owners can decrease the likelihood that their pets will contract these diseases by making sure their pets have access to safe, clean drinking water, and by eliminating any source of standing water, such as puddles, containers with water, and fountains that are not in use. Pet owners should also make sure to dispose of pet feces immediately using a plastic bag to place the waste in the trash, as well as cleaning and disinfecting toys, beds, and kennels regularly.

For more information on testing, fees, and diagnostics at the Indiana ADDL, veterinarians should call (765) 494-7440.

This story is part of the 2017 Fall PVM Report.

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