A rare and potentially fatal disease affecting dogs has appeared in Lake Macquarie for the first time in decades.
Vet Andrew Cornwell said a 12-week-old Belgian shepherd pup had presented at Cardiff Vet Hospital last week with vomiting and diarrhoea.
Tests confirmed the dog had leptospirosis, a bacterial disease most often contracted via rat urine. The disease can affect animals and humans. Symptoms range from gastroenteritis to liver and kidney failure.
"An outbreak occurred in Sydney from 2017 to 2020 and infected 17 dogs within three kilometres of Surry Hills," Mr Cornwell said.
"That was the first time it had been seen since 1976.
"This is the first known infection in a pet in the Newcastle and Lake Macquarie urban area for many decades.
"It is usually seen in the tropics but is rare in urban areas of NSW."
All 17 dogs infected in the Surry Hills outbreak died.
The Speers Point pup, Storm, is alive but is being treated in intensive care at the Small Animal Specialist Hospital in Sydney.
"This pup lives in a property in Layton Street at Speers Point that has a small park next to it that contains rats. This is the likely source of the infection," Mr Cornwell said.
"This is a notifiable disease, and the appropriate authorities were informed.
"Sydney Uni applied a 3km protocol in relation to the Surry Hills outbreak.
"If we did similar here, which seems reasonable, it would mean that dogs using the leash-free park at Speers Point would be strongly advised to be vaccinated against lepto."
Infection occurs in pets when they are exposed to puddles or soil contaminated with rat urine.
The bacteria enter their body through drinking from puddles or contact with cuts and abrasions.
They favour warm, moist environments, ponds, stagnant water and areas exposed to flooding.
Mr Cornwell said the 3km radius also included Warners Bay, Boolaroo, Argenton, Teralba, Booragul and Macquarie Hills.
He said pet owners should contact their vet for advice.