Leptospirosis Spread by Rats is Infecting Dogs on Upper West Side, Veterinarian Says

This Upper West Side dog was infected with leptospirosis, causing his liver to fail. (He survived.)

By Lisa Kava

A local vet is raising awareness about a bacterial disease called Leptospirosis, which has been spreading and infecting dogs on the Upper West Side. The city says that reported cases have not increased, but vets tell us that they have seen an increase in the number of dogs they treat with the disease.

Lepto is a serious disease transmitted into water sources through rat urine. Humans and dogs can both be affected. One person was killed and two others were sickened by lepto in the Bronx last winter. Dr. Kim Rosenthal from West Side Vet told us she’s seen a sudden increase. “Prior to September 2016 the only case of lepto that I had ever seen in 30 years as a vet in NYC was one dog that went swimming in the lake in Central Park where the rowboats are. The rats come out at night and drink and urinate and the water is full of lepto.”

“Starting last fall, a year ago September, I saw my first case which was one of many that followed.  It took two and a half weeks and an excess of $20,000 to save this dog. The dogs go into full liver failure and full renal failure. We are now telling all of our patients to vaccinate their dogs against leptospirosis. It is a no brainer. We are not seeing reactions to this vaccine. We sent out a notice in September, October and November.”

West Side Vet sent a note to every client this fall about the importance of this vaccine. “You do not have to see or bite a rat to get lepto. It is transmitted through mucous membranes. If your dog sniffs in the nose, in the lips, on the gums, that is all it takes. It can be fatal to dogs, it can be fatal to people.” The lepto vaccine is a yearly vaccine, the first one comes with a booster 2-4 weeks later.

One local dog owner told West Side Rag that her dog (shown above) was nearly killed by lepto a few weeks ago. The dog was not yet vaccinated because he was a puppy. He was diagnosed with lepto a few weeks ago after walking in Joan of Arc Park. The dog went into liver failure, according to his owner. He was lethargic, vomiting and needed to be quarantined. “We had almost $10,000 in vet bills,” she said. “BluePearl Midtown did a wonderful job saving our dog these past several days. Thankfully he pulled through, but clearly the city has not done much since the last rat outbreak and the funding in September.”

The owner noted that she needed to go on preventative antibiotics so as not to catch the disease from her dog (by touching his vomit, cleaning up after him). “Our vet said there has been an increase in lepto cases in the past few weeks…The rat problem in the neighborhood is very obvious. It is disgusting. You hear them screaming at night, digging holes every day and see them running on the street.”

A rat seen next to a statue in Verdi Square at 72nd Street last week. “There was a whole family of rats walking back and forth in front of the 72nd street train station,” said our tipster.

Rats have been a persistent problem on the Upper West Side, but the rodents appear to have spread and gotten more bold over the past few months. On Sept 28th Mayor De Blasio announced a $750,000 investment to tackle rat hot spots on the Upper West Side.

Dr. Richard Goldstein, the Chief Medical Officer at the Animal Medical Center, and a recognized leptospirosis expert, said in an interview that there are about 50 case of canine lepto in NYC each year. They are all dogs that have never been vaccinated. He says there have been 2-5 cases in humans each year and that there is no vaccine for humans as the technology is not yet there. The disease is usually transmitted directly from rodents to people, not dogs to people, according to Dr Goldstein. It can be from walking barefoot where rats have urinated. As for dogs, Dr. Goldstein believes that the lepto vaccine should be a core vaccine given by all vets and that every dog in NYC should get this vaccine as every dog has the potential to be exposed. “I believe in New York City right now lepto vaccines are standard of care. We rarely if ever see a vaccinated dog get the disease.”

Dr. Goldstein noted that historically the ability to diagnose lepto was difficult but that today there are brand new tests. He also pointed out that the vaccine in the last 12 years has gotten much better and is very safe. “Any risk associated with getting the vaccine is nothing compared to the disease.” Dr. Goldstein also mentioned that raccoons are a big culprit in carrying the disease and that a raccoon in Central Park has a 50% chance of carrying lepto.

When asked if he has seen an increase in lepto cases in dogs recently in NYC, Dr Goldstein replied “There is definitely an increased level of diagnosis. Some of that is related to the increase in rat population but some of it is also increased awareness and better understanding of what the disease looks like. It is hard to separate an increase and an awareness.”

Carolina Rodriguez, Deputy Press Secretary for the NYC Department of Health, said in a statement that “Over the years the Health Department has worked closely with the community and elected officials to address the rat population on the Upper West Side, including a recent investment of $750,000. Additionally, this year we have seen no evidence of an increase in canine or human leptospirosis cases in the City or in the West Side of Manhattan.” Stats she sent to us show that only two cases have been reported in Manhattan this year.

Its not clear, however, that people whose pets have been impacted by lepto are reporting that to the city. One vet told us that dog owners and vets do not always report canine lepto cases to the DOH. The department requires leptospirosis cases to be reported to them by phone or fax within 24 hours of laboratory diagnosis in order to be recorded. Within the first 24 hours of diagnosis, reporting to the DOH may be low on the priority list for dog owners and vets.

The DOH has a fact sheet about leptospirosis fact sheet for vets and dog owners, and explains here how to report to the department if your pet is infected.

Rodriguez said that the Health Department is working closely with Council Member Helen Rosenthal to implement strategies to reduce rat activity in the neighborhood, including walkthroughs to identify hot spots in the district. They hosted a Rat Academy in September that provided neighborhood residents, property owners, managers and staff the best information available on preventing and managing rodents. The DOH plans to hold another training Rat Academy on a future date, the trainings are free and open to all New Yorkers. They are also “actively baiting in the rat reservoir areas of the neighborhood, including Riverside Park, Central Park and Theodore Roosevelt Parks, as well as in private properties and public spaces such as the Broadway Mall.”

Rosenthal’s office noted that “The (rat) issue is one that her office is on top of all of the time.” New “rat-proof” garbage bins are being placed in Riverside Park and trash pickups have been increased, for instance.

Dr. Kim Rosenthal says “ Hopefully the city will start to get on top of the rat situation. Hopefully we have a crazy cold winter and the rat population will be decreased.”

In the meantime please be sure to vaccinate your dogs,  stay away from rats and puddles in the park and spread awareness!

NEWS | 79 comments | permalink
    1. Svea says:

      Thank Bill DeBlasio and his do-nothing minions like Helen.

      • Chuck says:

        And he’s also responsible for climate change and the recent oil spill in North Dakota, right? Sheesh.

      • francis says:

        The # of cases have gone down about 60% under deBlasio, at least in Manhattan, according to the table.

        So yeah, thanks deBlasio. It’s why he won 65-29: because NYers can read tables, and aren’t so easily swayed by GOP troll bots like they are in Ohio.

      • Marilyn says:

        Sad but true.

    2. OriginalMark says:

      Dr. Rosenthal must not be reporting the “sudden increase” she is seeing to the health department, since they only have 2 reports this year.
      That’s a problem.
      Either she is drumming up business to see a vaccine or she isn’t doing her professional duty by reporting these cases.

      • John McGuire says:

        Her office, Westside Veterinary has recently raised their fees across the board by at least 20%. She has voiced concerns that the cost of doing business on the UWS is challenging. The office now sends out more flyers in the mail than years past soliciting for shots. And the price on meds is double that online.

        • Marilyn says:

          That is why we need COMMERCIAL REVT CONTROL. we are losing all good local businesses. Just this week a WONDERFUL fish store, JOON, on 98 & Amsterdam for 26 years was forced to close because of are R raise to 15k!! Things like a wonderful INEXPENSIVE fresh fish store owned by people not a huge corporation is what this neighborhood needs & loses more of every day.

        • KC says:

          Yes, prices needed to increase because of increased rent and taxes. They have not increased 20 percent.
          2 of the cases were seen in 2016 and 1 in 2017.
          Dr Goldstein at AMC sees more cases. Blue Pearl Reported 2 of the 3 cases. Blue Pearl has seen multiple cases this year too.
          A RAG reporter requested to interview Dr Rosenthal. She was not looking to drum up business. This is to make pet owners aware of a disease not everyone knows about. Westside Veterinary Center practices ethical and high quality medicine.

          • OriginalMark says:

            Well, ethical as long as you feel it’s ok to diagnose dogs with a serious, communicable, and legally reportable disease but not report those diagnoses.

      • Steen says:

        Actually, there were 7 cases of human contracted leptospirosis last year, from 2 the year before. So while the number is still small, that is quite a jump. There is no data on 2017 so far.


      • Steen says:

        Citation, please? I just looked on NYC.gov’s website and they said 10-20 cases a year. You should also understand that a Bronx man died from leptospirosis earlier this year. So, while you find the risk level small, others may want to stay informed and choose a relatively easy way to protect themselves. https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/doh/downloads/pdf/zoo/lepto_providers.pdf

    3. Allison says:

      Poor puppies 🙁

    4. NYWoman says:

      BID employees are clearly visible cleaning up trash, sweeping and hosing sidewalks near Lincoln Center, and other BID areas across Manhattan. I haven’t seen a BID crew out along the UWS zone that’s heavily populated with restaurants, tourists and locals. Lots of restaurants and their take outs means lots of trash – food trash. It spills out of the limited cans – and no one’s cleaning up. Why aren’t restaurant zones given more trash cans AND trash pick ups? After this summer’s rat epidemic in the area, why? I moved from a great apartment in the Amsterdam/80’s block because of the vermin situation. Loved the neighborhood – hated the rats. And mice.

      • Chris says:

        I see dozens of rats in Dante Park every morning when I walk through there at 5am. So one would have to assume that if I see a dozen there are many more.

    5. anonUWS says:

      I have no qualms that this is a horrible disease, but this line feels a bit too perfectly placed…”We had almost $10,000 in vet bills,” she said. “BluePearl Midtown did a wonderful job saving our dog these past several days.”

      Scare tactics anyone?

      • EricaC says:

        The first part of the statement (the cost) is a statement of purported fact. Unless it is false, I don’t see how it is a scare tactic. The second part – about Blue Pearl – doesn’t seem like a scare tactic, and if my experiences with Blue Pearl is typical, is also likely true. They are terrific.

      • Ek says:

        Scare tactics? Or maybe credit given where it’s due. A lepto death is not something any dog owner wants to experience. It’s painful, scary, and expensive. If the city did something about the problem, maybe we wouldn’t be forced to vaccinate.

      • Sad pet owner says:

        Not a scare tactic, but credit given where it is due. If the city did something about the problem, we wouldn’t have to vaccinate. Lepto is a painful, scary, and expensive death for pets, no one wants to see their animal go through that. As a pet owner who does not “let my dog run free or slurp standing water,” I can tell you this should still be a major concern to all until the city and people change their behavior. Stop feeding birds, stop leaving trash, and clean up parks. Your ignorance is part of the problem

        • OriginalMark says:

          Ignorant is someone who clearly sees that the health department has received only two reports this year while a vet claims a sudden increase in cases.
          The math doesn’t add up.
          This vet is supposed to report these cases. But instead she’s reporting them on WSR.

      • Sammie@L says:

        Why are you assuming this is a scare tactic and not a PSA? Our dog’s bills were double that but since they’ve been getting the lepto shot (at an UES clinic) they’ve both been healthy and happy. We should be focusing on getting rid of the &#%$ rats!

    6. Toni Stanley says:

      I would say that a huge factor in the increase of the rat population in NYC and especially the UWS is the overwhelming presences of food trucks. They provide an easy and abundant food source for these vermin, not to mention their “contribution” to filth and noise pollution. Ban them and I’ll bet we’ll see the rats diminish.

    7. Scott says:

      Dog owners should know that the lepto vaccine itself is dangerous. My dog experienced vomiting and convulsions and I said, never again. The fact that vets want this standardized as a required vaccine is quite troubling.

      How about not letting your dog run free and slurp at standing water. Problem solved, although this cuts into the veterinarian’s bottom line.

      • EricaC says:

        I think your experience is rare. It is important for people to know that it is possible, but also that it is rare. How rare, I do not know – but the statistics are available and concerned pet owners should consult them.

        Unfortunately, avoiding puddles and bodies of water and staying on leash is not a guarantee when rats are sufficiently numerous that they can be assumed to have left traces on sidewalks and other places that dogs inevitably must walk. Lepto can be picked up from the sidewalk.

        The statistics when I reviewed them years ago looked pretty clear in favor of vaccinating. Thankfully, it worked out for me and my dogs.

      • UWSlurker says:

        A dog doesn’t have to roam free to contract the bacteria. That is a ridiculous assumption. Why did you get the vaccine if you are such a good dog owner that would never allow your dog to sniff or lick anything that could possibly be contaminated?

        • Scott says:

          Where did I say the dog had to run free to get lepto? Try reading and comprehending before engaging your fingers.

          I vaccinated my dog for lepto 12 years ago because I was a new dog owner. There were wild rumors going around about a new killer disease that was going to wipe out all our pets. I said ok and spent the $150 or whatever. I hope that answers your snide question.

          • EricaC says:

            Scott, you said “How about not letting your dog run free and slurp at standing water. Problem solved, although this cuts into the veterinarian’s bottom line.” That suggests that letting the dogs run free or slurping at standing water is the (or a) reason for dogs to get sick.

            What part did I not understand?

    8. BonnieDVM says:

      ALL rodents, not just rats, are potential carriers of Leptospira. Although rats are most frequently implicated, people should be aware that squirrels can carry the bacteria as well. So, it’s not a great idea to commune with them (as was shown in a photo a few days ago) unless you have hand sanitizer with you!
      Lepto has been part of routine dog vaccinations for 40 years. Use of the lepto portion dropped off about 10-15 years ago when the disease stopped being seen as much as in the past. The paradox is always that when a vaccination program is successful, the incidence of disease drops off and there is a perception that protection is no longer needed. Short of keeping your dog inside 24/7, if you choose not to vaccinate against lepto, your dog should wear booties (which should be disinfected prior to entering your home) and your dog shouldn’t be allowed to sniff puddles, moist grass, or other dogs, and shouldn’t be allowed to roll anywhere lest the hair pick up the bacteria!

      • Carol says:

        Can you tell me why there are only 2 reported cases so far Nov 17,2017? But, you and many others see an increase? Are the vets not reporting to the statistic gatherers?
        Also, has there been an improvement in the vac
        at some point and if so what year?

    9. Katherine Bouton says:

      Don’t ignore this! My 9 month old puppy (too young for vaccine) also was headed to liver and kidney failure Blue Pearl saved his life. And don’t forget to take out pet health insurance. Our bills are approaching $17,000.
      Insurance covers $10,000 (we hope).

    10. daibb says:

      Put the dog down and donate the 10K to a child with renal problems.

      • Sean says:

        Blue Pearl is absurdly expensive but it is state of the art. Still I think the comment is too harsh.

      • UWSLurker says:

        Why don’t you put your money where your mouth is?

      • Cat says:

        I know soooo many people like you, lol. One situation has absolutely nothing to do with the other. Btw, have you donated $10,000 to save a child in renal failure this year???

      • EricaC says:

        There is clearly always a moral struggle as to which of our preferences and desires are worthy of funds as compared to the charitable efforts that we could give them to instead. It is worth remembering that the same argument has been made by those who say, why do Americans spend $100k saving a single life, when the same amount could be used to save thousands of lives elsewhere. Or why do you spend money on a beautiful home when there are hungry people. And so forth.

        There is also the question of when it stops being about the well-being of your pet and starts being about your own wishes – for example, I recently lost a pet to a fatal disease, and came to know many other people whose pets had the same disease who spent thousands of dollars keeping the pets alive; my own view, when my pet began to appear to feel ill, was that any further intervention at that point would have been for me, not for him, because it was clear that he was going to die, there was no way to cure it, and the only thing we could do was slow it down. While a person might appreciate the extended life span as a time to say farewell to family and friends and enjoy the last part of life, however limited, I thought my pet would only experience it as extended illness, so I did not spend the thousands that others spent to keep him going. Others would obviously reach a different conclusion.

        I do think that it is very easy for those who aren’t attuned to pets to suggest that we just stop caring for our pets and save the money for better purposes. I do feel that our moral obligation to help other people is not our only moral obligation – we also have an obligation to the pets we bring into our lives. We have to balance those against one another, and I am not sure I get it right.

        But I do know that anyone who has the means to be posting snarky comments on WSR likely has enough resources that there is fat to be trimmed in his or her life that could be used for “better” purposes, making the self-righteous suggestion of cutting out what *I* care for a little suspect.

        BTW, you may not be aware of how many advances in human medicine have been derived from the veterinary research that us crazy pet people have funded – perhaps that puts another straw on the scale in favor of continuing to care for the animals we have brought into our lives.

    11. RubyFrancesca says:

      Dr. Rosenthal is an amazing vet. She truly cares about her patient’s as if they were her own pets. She is by no means “drumming up business” nor is she “not doing her professional duty”. OriginalMark you should be careful not to make unsubstantiated and eroneous statements.

      • Sean says:

        But a practice is a business no?

      • OriginalMark says:

        Where are her reports to the health department?

        • EricaC says:

          It is possible that her reports were made and are not being properly tabulated. I can’t say whether that is true, but there is often a delay in these procedures (at least with the agencies I have dealt with).

          It’s a good think to question whether people raising an issue have an interest in doing so, but it may not be fair in this case.

    12. Rat A. Tooey says:

      Oh, sure! Blame us rats 4 everything!

      Blame us for:
      Glow-ball warming … Glow-ball cooling …rainy days…hot days…cloudy days…subway D-lays…the Republican party…the Democratic party…that Man-In-The-White-House…even the pathetic Giants football team!

      And don’t ferget Kim Jong Un !

      • Mick E. Mouse says:

        How about we petition the city to outlaw dogs ?

        It’s cheaper than spending bucks to exterminate the rodents?

        The dogs can be shipped to Rhinebeck to live out a long peaceful life, with those humans who have outgrown the UWS.

    13. BillyNYC says:

      Thank you for posting this!!! this is so important I have a bad feeling about the W. 81st St. dog run “Bull Run” with all the puddles and rats that run about is a very dangerous dog run and should be closed by the department of health immediately – last week there was an outbreak of “kennel cough” from this dog run – 8 dogs already have come down with “kennel cough” that go to the dog run on W. 81st St.

    14. MF says:

      I have seen a lot of dog owners carrying their small dogs around with them, instead of letting them walk. I guess this is why. Very scary situation, indeed. Glad I am a cat owner.

    15. Smithe says:

      Sounds like just another risk of being a dog owner in the big city!

    16. Maryjane says:

      as much as I love dogs, another reason to own a cat or two

    17. Catherine says:

      It is not just puddles or rat urine in parks or dog runs, it is also possible to get it from plastic garbage bags on the street which all dogs love to sniff. West Side Vets have plenty of business so the allegation that Dr Rosenthal is drumming up business w scare tactics is ludicrous- 1 of my dogs goes there and the other one goes to a different vet and both recommended the vaccine which I gave to both of them w no side effects. I also have insurance for both just in case of anything catastrophic happening. Forewarned is forearmed.

    18. Nora says:

      My 18 month old West End Avenue dog got lepto in 2005 and, after $12,000 in medical care, lived for four more happy years before dying of kidney failure. My new dog has health insurance. I think my dog got lepto in CT the weekend before he showed symptoms — he was messing around at the edge of a large pond. No way to know. I have not vaccinated my current dog, now seven, because the cases are so rare and I am under the impression that many strains of lepto are not treated by the vaccine. I, too, think it is an up-sell by the vets. But it is real and devastating to animals and people when it happens. A sick dog can infect others, as mine may have before we realized he was ill and put on antibiotics. (Tho given the numbers shown, it looks like this probably didn’t happen, thankfully.)

      I think the people who spread bird food around so generously are contributing to the problem and negating the valuable efforts of the sanitation dept.

    19. Darwin says:

      1. Kim Rosenthal is an amazing vet & does not need to “drum up business.”
      2. Everything on the UWS is getting more expensive, especially RENT on businesses below 96th Street thanks to the stupid commercial lease tax.
      3. Dogs sniff & lick – don’t think your pup will avoid lepto & other diseases by not letting them be DOGS.

      • OriginalMark says:

        You, like all of the vet’s defenders here, sing her praises while not answering the simple question of why she doing what is required of her which is to report these cases to the health department.
        She may be a lovely person, but if she really cared about animal health she would report these cases (as directed by law) so that the increase in cases she claims becomes data that can be used by vets and dog owners across the city.
        The fact is that she is either not reporting as directed by law OR she isn’t really seeing an increase in lab confirmed cases.

    20. Patrick says:

      If you own an expensive, purebred dog, which you love, in a city where everything is price surged, there is disgust and disease and rat infestation running rampant in the streets you need pet insurance. I’m sure these smart, caring owners are smart enough to have it, you would be a fool not to. Kids play in the same parks that dogs do which catch these diseases. One case of this is one too many. If a child caught this it can be fatal. Ask your mayor to do something to clean this city up. It is unacceptable plain and simple.

    21. Jan says:

      So that is why dogs are NOT allowed is food stores, deli’s,
      etc. It is known that dogs and esp. cats carry diseases
      not compatible with humans. This is a fact that pet owners
      do not want to face,

      • js says:

        Incredibly yesterday saw person in Manhattan supermarket put her small dog in a cart🙁

        She was with an older relative who said it was her emotional support dog.

        When store manager spoke to them they gave her a hard time.

        They were well-dressed and articulate – and basically threatened to report manager who was trying to do her job,

      • EricaC says:

        There are a lot of sanitary reasons that dogs and other pets are generally not allowed to walk into places that carry food, and one may well be that they pick things up on their paws walking through the street that would be carried into stores that they then walk into. But if that is the case, it isn’t a question of the inherent lack of sanitary-ness of dogs – it’s an issue that arises because of the world the dogs live in, and of which dogs are the biggest victim.

        • Gus says:

          Oh, please! Human traffic in and out of stores and restaurants is responsible for far more grime and debris than are dog paws. Think of the surface area of two she’s soles compared to the size of four little paws. I hope you remove your shoes before entering your home.

    22. christine says:

      Rats are loaded on West 89th and 90th Street between Columbus and Central Park West.

    23. rhee says:

      What happened to Deblasio’s promise to clean up the rat problem on the UWS? Oh wait-that was before the election…

      • EricaC says:

        Honestly, what do you think any mayor can do that would cure the problem instantly – particularly when people persist in tossing trash, feeding birds and squirrels, and engaging in other activities that inevitably lead to bigger rat populations?

    24. Toby's Mom says:

      So……..if you don’t report your dog contracted leptospirosis within 24 hours of diagnosis it doesn’t get listed as a statistic??? Ridiculous!!!!

      • Michael says:

        Lepto is a serious problem if contracted. It is the one vaccination our vet said was “optional” and “our decision.” I’m a big believer in vaccination (as is our vet). I was surprised by the “lack of recommendation” so I started to do some research.

        I found a paper published in 2015 (The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association). The manuscript outlines the and attempt to determine the risk of reactions to lepto vaccines. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26517617

        Dogs who received the lepto vaccine were significantly more likely to suffer an adverse reaction than those who did not – twice as high! While overall the rate was low, the vaccine was associated with SE’s. The SE’s did not appear to be serious in most cases and for the most part safe.

        Have you vaccinated or not?

    25. Marilyn says:

      All buildings should be required to put their garbage out in the rat proof cans the council woman spoke of. Thousands of bags of garbage in plastic on the sidewalks every night seems to me to be a free buffet for the rats every night. Or, buildings should not be allowed to put out the garbage more than 3 hours before the garbage collection window.

      Another problem could be the hugely diminished number of garbage cans in RSP. Supposedly the reduction is to get people to take garbage with them, but those cans were well used and filled up quickly. I for one am not carrying my dog’s poop around. It is a disgrace to treat dog owners this way when we give SO much to the local economy while we must find and clean the dog runs ourselves. In addition to the astronomical economic benefit dogs provide, they also provide a safer and more vibrant neighborhood with a community feel because of all the people out walking dogs at all hours of the day and night. Yet, we are treated as an intrusion with inane restrictions on where dogs are permitted throughout the city. Western Europe has allowed dogs in restaurants for centuries and Based on health data those Europeans are both healthier and happier.
      Finally, as a local news story reported this week humans who have dogs live happier, & more healthful lives. $750k is a pittance in terms of NYC’s budget, the persons affected and the issue at hand. Perhaps the city should offer free Lepto vaccinations.

    26. Mary Hogan says:

      As a longtime UWS resident and dog owner, I’ve spoken out at Community Board meetings and other political gatherings about the growing rat problem in Riverside Park. Former Park Commissioner Adrien Benape said to me, “The leptospirosis link is a myth.” Luckily, I was ready with accurate statistics to set him straight. Helen Rosenthal pretended to care, but only gave lip service to her desire to control the rat problem in our beautiful park. One of the biggest problems: people (one woman in particular) continue to illegally dump chunks of bread for the “birds” making our plump rat population healthy enough to reproduce as many as 2,000 descendants per year per female. And a rat is sexually mature at three months! The upsetting fact is this: Our officials don’t care. They only slap a Band-aid on the problem when the news cameras appear to document rats running around a playground. Which, by the way, is their favorite food source. Next time your child runs through a puddle in the playground, ask yourself, “Could a rat have urinated there?” The answer will always be YES.

    27. Always an UWS gal says:

      @ Original Mark – It is possible that vets have reported the disease incidents, but that the health department hasn’t updated their stats. Perhaps this is her way of getting information out to people who might be interested or care. Let’s not assume the worst about her intentions.

    28. OriginalMark says:

      I called the NYC Department of Health to let them know about this article and to report that Dr. Rosenthal is saying that there has been an increase in leptospirosis.
      The person I spoke with confirmed that vets are required to report these cases and that those reports must be accompanied by documentation of lab work that confirms the diagnosis.
      The health department person said there has not been an increase in cases and that she would look into this. Apparently, it can be quite serious for a vet or doctor to publicize an increase in reportable diseases while not reporting those diseases to health authorities.

      • EricaC says:

        I’m sure you are very proud of yourself.

        Your enormous faith in the accuracy and competence of this particular bureaucracy is touching as well.

    29. Independent says:

      “Glad I am a cat owner.”

      “another reason to own a cat”

      To those who have expressed such sentiments, I wonder: Are you aware of Toxoplasmosis (Toxoplasma infection)


      How do people get toxoplasmosis?

      A Toxoplasma infection occurs by:[…]

      Accidentally swallowing the parasite through contact with cat feces that contain Toxoplasma. This might happen by

      1. cleaning a cat’s litter box when the cat has shed Toxoplasma in its feces
      2. touching or ingesting anything that has come into contact with cat feces that contain Toxoplasma

    30. Independent says:

      The department requires leptospirosis cases to be reported to them by phone or fax within 24 hours of laboratory diagnosis in order to be recorded.

      Why?! I find it difficult to imagine what could possibly be a valid reason for allowing only such a short window.

      If the stats shown in the table (only two cases of Lepto reported-to-date this year and only four last year) are anywhere near accurate, then that would have to mean either that (a) the vets quoted in the article have reported within the required 24-hour window almost none of the cases that they claim to have seen or, if they have reported them within 24-hours, then (b) even when reported within the required 24 hours, the City has, for some reason, actually recorded/included in the published stats only a very few of such cases.

      In either case, the question would be why?

      Have the vets done anything to register objections with the City to the (seemingly preposterously narrow) 24-hour window in-question?

      • OriginalMark says:

        As a point of clarification, the 24-hour mandatory reporting means that vets are expected to do so. Reporting after 24 hours does NOT mean that the case does not become part of the tabulation.
        In a similar way, there are human diseases that must be reported within 24 hours (e.g. measles).
        The health department person with whom I spoke said that lab confirmation MUST be part of the report to prevent the reporting of non-confirmed cases.
        She was not happy when I told her about this article and they are apparently going to take appropriate steps. She said they can and do perform inspections of vet offices, including the review of patient records.

        • Independent says:

          Reporting after 24 hours does NOT mean that the case does not become part of the tabulation.

          Obviously, that would contradict the sentence from this WSR article that I had quoted. If what you report being told by the health Dept. employee whom you spoke with is correct, then the sentence I quoted could do a real disservice to the public. Based on said sentence, people who, for whatever reason, may not have reported a case of leptospirosis within the first 24-hours after diagnosis, may figure that there is no longer any point in reporting it. Would it not, therefore, at this point, behoove the author of said article or the editor to verify the matter and then followup accordingly to clarify once and for all?

    31. Pia Doane says:

      My dog was rat poisoned from broken rat traps where the poison was left spread outside the box. My dog had 100% poison and almost died, it effected his organs and still a very sensative stomach on a strict diet. A very painful for our dear dogs.

      • EricaC says:

        That is awful and a good warning to all of us to watch carefully for the rat boxes. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a fully safe way to address the problem. Rats make the dogs sick and can kill them. Rat poison can make the dogs sick and can kill them. we all can help a bit by not littering, following trash disposal rules (including containing trash in rat proof containers), and picking up litter – but ultimately, we can’t eliminate this risk. We have to be watchful and decide how best to protect our dogs (and families) from this. Knowing of local anecdotal experience can be helpful in weighing the risks of the vaccinations against the risks of the disease, so I’m glad to know of local experience.

    32. Bully Owner says:

      We(owner of the sick bully) approached the West Side Rag about the lepto problem. We also contacted NY Post, NY Times, and ABC. They were the only to respond. Will this now shut up the people who are claiming that this was a sinister attempt by West Side Vet to drum up business? West Side Vet isn’t even our vet. The author was just getting a comment from a local vet about the problem.

      So many jerks in the comment section. The inclusive, caring uws many of you people purport is a myth…

      • OriginalMark says:

        Why would your comment stop the criticism?
        Whether they are your vet or not, the article reports that they have seen an increase in cases, yet those haven’t been reported to the health department.

        Read the second sentence of the article.

        Sorry for your sick dog, but facts are facts.
        Unless you’re Kellyanne Conway.

      • Steen says:

        I, for one, thank you for coming forward. Original Mark apparently has nothing to do all day long than to see conspiracies in WSR reporting items of local interest. I used to get angry about it, now I feel kind of sad for him. It’s pathological. Don’t let his weird need to affix blame to a vet who is just trying to inform dog owners get to you.

        A man died from leptospirosis this year in the Bronx, 2 others were hospitalized. Ms. Rodriguez may think that’s not a big deal, but I’m sure it was to their families.

        I’m glad this article was written.

    33. Samantha says:

      Kim Rosenthal has been my vet for twenty years. To those who are suggesting that she is drumming up business or overcharging, all I can say is you must have never used her services. I was actually at her office today to get advice about a lesion on my dog’s foot. Kim’s expertise allowed her to make a diagnosis on the spot, without charging me for extra testing or culturing or cytology. If she’s right, the meds she’s prescribed will work. If they don’t, *then* she’ll suggest testing. She *literally* said to me, “I don’t want to charge you for tests that I don’t think are necessary.” She also told me that *if* the meds don’t work and I have to come back to have the dog’s lesion cultured, she “will not charge me for the visit.” This does not seem to me like a vet who is seeking ways to make a buck!

      BTW, West Side Veterinary and Dr. Rosenthal *are* reporting the cases of lepto! I believe they are legally bound to do so. Why the city hasn’t found the time to update their records is anyone’s guess. Maybe it’s the same reason the city can’t deal with the insane rise in rats?

      Did I get my dog the lepto shot last year? You bet I did. We spend at least an hour every day in Riverside Park where the rats are rampant, and my dog likes to swim in local fountains in the summer. Meanwhile, the restaurant garbage on my street is rampant with rats. So there was no way I *wasn’t* going to vaccinate my dog. Yep, I know it doesn’t cover every form of lepto. But even coverage from some forms of the disease is worth it to me.

      One last thing: To all the dog-haters or non-dog-owners commenting on this thread, seriously? It’s like people who don’t have kids telling other people how to parent. Every dog owner has to make the best decision for their animal and their budget that they can, and it’s not really anybody else’s business — though clearly everybody has an opinion. I was determined to get pet insurance when I got the dog I have now. I called three different pet insurance companies. All of them said, “Yes, we insure your breed, but we don’t insure X or Y or Z,” which are all things the breed is prone to. So I had to decide, “Is it worth it to lay out $50/month in case the dog gets a weird disease, or cancer, or hit by a car, even though I *know* the dog will probably need help for X, Y, or Z which isn’t covered?” In the end, my family’s finances were tight, and I decided the $600/year for pet insurance was better off in the bank and that I would deal with cancer, etc. if it turned up. Some day I may end up thousands out of pocket to deal with this dog’s health. But I made the best decision I could based on my finances at the time. No point in judging me.

      • Steen says:

        And if I was a small business owner rasping this thread and seeing your hostility, nastiness and animosity towards a business dispensing information to the public, I would think twice about giving an interview to WSR. You truly exemplify the adage that no good deed goes unpunished.

        • OriginalMark says:

          Except that you continue to miss the very obvious point, which is that the “information” is being reported to a very small segment of an at-risk public as opposed to reporting to the health department, which would then reach the entire city.
          Appropriately reported data can be used to implement recommendations that will protect all dogs.
          But keep grasping…

    34. Independent says:

      On a light, happy and encouraging note, I will take the liberty of sharing a pleasant, uplifting music video that dog lovers, fans of the legendary singer-songwriter it features and others are all likely to enjoy:
      Neil Diamond – Something Blue (Official)

      According to comments posted on the video from YouTube users, the dogs in the video were from a shelter and were all adopted– two of them by Mr. Diamond himself– as a result of being featured in the video.