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Lepto from mice?

Species: Dog
Breed: lab mix
Age: 2-5 years
I live in New York City, in an apartment. Two days ago, I left Honey's food out on my kitchen counter overnight by accident (it is in a plastic bag, but I keep it in a sealed container, usually) and in the morning I saw the corner had been nibbled through by a mouse!

I threw out the food, and got supplies to disinfect my apartment. When I began really cleaning, I found mouse droppings under my sink where I keep my trash. It's so gross.

I've cleaned most of my surfaces with bleach, and put out peppermint oil which is supposed to repel the mice. My super is going to come by this week to put steel wool and caulk in any small holes to try to keep the mice out. I don't intend to use poison as I know it is extremely unsafe for dogs.

I haven't seen/heard any mice, and my apartment is generally very clean, but my understanding is that these signs indicate that the mice have been at least entering my apartment for a little while (a few days? weeks? there weren't too many droppings, but enough to not be a one day thing, I think).

My biggest worry is leptospirosis for my dog. I read that mice basically "continually pee" so there is probably dried mouse pee all over my apartment (or at least the kitchen), and probably was there before I even knew there was a mouse problem. My fear is that Honey might have stepped in it or sniffed it. Sometimes she licks the floor after she finishes eating her dinner, too.

She was vaccinated for lepto last year, but we actually just got the notice that she is due on 12/8/13, and I have read that the vaccine isn't usually effective for a full year. Also, I know it is not 100% effective.

My question is: what are the risks that any given mouse/mice population is carrying leptospirosis? And what are the risks to Honey being a dog who lives in a small apartment where mice have been? What steps do I need to take to make sure she is okay?

I read that lepto thrives in warm, moist areas. I imagine any mouse pee would dry rather quickly (I've never noticed any at all), so does this protect her some? Does the bacteria die in dry environments, or live for a few days?

PS: I know lepto can also affect humans, but I'm less worried about myself because I don't lick my floors or sniff around the trash can like my pup does...

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

This is an excellent question. Can your dog get leptosporisis from mice in your house? In my opinion it would be close to impossible for this to happen.

I could not find information on the prevalence of leptospirosis in the rodent population of New York, but it can definitely be prevalent in the US. This study shows that the prevalence of leptospirosis in rodents in Detroit is fairly high, stating that almost 60% of the rats they tested were shedding the leptospirosis bacteria. A similar looked at leptospirosis in humans in Detroit and found three cases of people who were infected. However, those people all had heavy rat infestations. From what you have described, you do not have a rodent infestation.

The other thing is that, as you alluded to, leptospirosis is transmitted via urine that is still wet. Dogs tend to get lepto from drinking from puddles or still water where infected animals have urinated. I'm very pleased to hear that you don't lick your floors. :) But, even if you did, you would likely have to find fresh urine to ingest in order to get infected.

Regarding the lepto vaccine, in some cases it can be fully protective for a year. It is labelled to be given once yearly. In some areas where there is heavy leptospirosis vets will give it every six months. There is a good chance that Honey is still protected.

While I can't say for certain that you are both completely safe, I would be extremely surprised if any harm was done. There are likely millions of homes in the US that have a mild mouse issue and I can't say that I have ever instituted any special program of prevention or testing because of mice in the house.

Hope that helps!

Dr. Marie.

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Disclaimer: Although Dr. Marie is a qualified veterinarian, the information found on this site is not meant to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. and Dr. Marie do not accept any responsibility for any loss, damage, injury, death, or disease which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. Do not use information found on this site for diagnosing or treating your pet. Anything you read here is for information only.

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Dr. MarieDr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.

Is an online vet visit just as good as a trip to your veterinarian? No! But, many times, asking an online veterinarian a question can help save you money. While Dr. Marie can't officially diagnose your pet or prescribe medications, she can often advise you on whether a vet visit is necessary. You can also ask Dr. Marie for a second opinion on your pet's condition.