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Flood resources: Companion animals (pets)

Below, you will find advice and resources for looking after pets affected by Cyclone Gabrielle and the recent flooding in the upper North Island. We also have specific resources for: 

Emergency contacts

Contact MPI’s on-call Animal Welfare Emergency Management team:

If you or someone you know has a missing animal, you can post a notice for free on New Zealand's largest lost and found pet network, LostPet.co.nz

It is also worth cross-posting the listing to local Facebook groups such as the Pets lost in Auckland Floods group. The SPCA recommends checking the ‘found’ listing and, if you don't see your pet listed, creating a ‘lost’ listing for them.

A free helpline has been set up for people in the Hawke's Bay who have been affected by Cyclone Gabrielle. Call the helpline if you need to access any welfare services, including mental health, accommodation, ongoing food, household goods and services support, animal welfare and rural support.

  • Phone: 0800 117 672

The number will operate from 8am to 8pm on weekdays and from 8am to 4.15pm on weekends.

Resources for veterinary professionals

Canine leptospirosis: Factsheet for veterinary teams
- Fact sheet by the Companion Animal Veterinarians (CAV) Branch of the NZVA

Leptospirosis in dogs
- Article by Janice Thompson in VetScript

Emerging leptospirosis in urban Sydney dogs: a case series
- Case report from Australian Veterinary Journal

Serological survey of leptospiral antibodies in clinically unwell dogs in New Zealand
- Study published in Companion Quarterly, the official newsletter of the Companion Animal Veterinarians Branch of the NZVA

General resources and advice

Animals affected by flood
- Advice from MPI for livestock, lifestyle block, horse and pet owners
Animals in emergencies
- Advice from SPCA
Flood safety for pets
- Blog post from vet charity PDSA
Eight tips to protect your pet after a flood
- Blog post from World Animal Protection

Risks for pets after floods

What is leptospirosis?

Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection that can infect both humans and animals. It is caused by a bacterium (genus Leptospira) that thrives in moist and humid areas, and is spread through animal urine and animal tissue.

How is leptospirosis trasmitted?

Leptospirosis is spread through direct or indirect contact with urine from infected animals. You or your pet can catch leptospirosis if you are bitten by a carrier or if you come into contact with infected water, mud or soil. For example, if a rat urinates into a stagnant body of water and your pet drinks that water, they are at risk of infection.

The bacteria can also enter the body through cuts in the skin or occasionally via the gums, mouth, nose and eyes. So, a dog that swims or stands in infected water or mud is at risk. Dogs accessing areas where there has been recent flooding or where there is a large amount of silt are at increased risk of exposure.

There is an increased risk of outbreaks of leptospirosis in production animals after flooding which increases the risk of exposure in dogs.

Rats are the most common carrier for the infection. There is often an increase in the number of rodents in areas where there has been recent flooding, due to rotting fruit, vegetables and other food sources. This also amplifies the risk of exposure in dogs.

Cats are more likely to become infected by eating infected rodents or their carcasses. However, cats generally carry a reduced risk of clinical infection than dogs.

What are the symptoms of leptospirosis?

Clinical signs can be varied and generally are seen 5-15 days following exposure.

  • loss of appetite
  • lethargy/loss of energy
  • vomiting and diarrhoea
  • a reduction in the frequency of urination and the amount of urine produced
  • breathing problems - rapid or laboured breathing

Can leptospirosis be treated?

When caught early, leptospirosis responds to antibiotic treatment and supportive care. But the disease may be severe with long term damage done to kidneys, liver and other organs so early treatment is most effective and intensive care may be necessary.

Talk to your vet if your dog is appears unwell, even if their symptoms are vague.

How do I protect my pets from leptospirosis?

You can prevent your pet from catching leptospirosis by:

  • preventing them from drinking or swimming in stagnant water
  • avoiding areas where rats, mice, wildlife or farm animals congregate
  • getting your pet vaccinated against leptospirosis if they are visiting or living in a high-risk area (talk to your vet about your animal's vaccination programme).

 

Diagnostic tests are available for leptospirosis, and appropriate treatment should be initiated as early as possible.

An increase in the number of cases of gastroenteritis in dogs has been reported following Cyclone Gabrielle as a result of access to contaminated water and silt.

Clinical signs are often noted shortly after exposure and include:

  • reduced energy levels
  • reduced or absent appetite
  • vomiting
  • diarrhoea
  • collapse (in advanced cases)

To reduce the risks:

  • wash pets with gentle soap or mild grease-cutting detergent following exposure to flood waters or silt
  • thoroughly clean your pet's feet and pads with mild soap or detergent (make sure you wear surgical or cleaning gloves to keep yourself safe!)
  • take care with general hygiene such as handwashing
  • reduce the opportunity for your dog to access potentially contaminated water or food.

If your dog appears unwell or is symptomatic, call your local vet. Dogs can become quickly dehydrated and may require veterinary treatment.

Cats are often significantly affected by changes in their routine and environment, and may be especially susceptible to the resulting stress and anxiety.

This may cause signs of stress-related cystitis in cats. Male cats can even develop a condition where they cannot pass urine. Not only is this painful and distressing, but it needs to be managed as an emergency since it can result in life-threatening complications.

Clinical signs to watch out for include:

  • attempting to urinate more frequently
  • posturing to urinate for longer periods than usual but only producing small volumes or no urine
  • attempting to urinate in unusual places
  • excessive licking and grooming around the back end
  • vocalising more than usual
  • unsettled behaviour
  • seems stiff when walking
  • reacts when picked up
  • reduced or absent appetite
  • vomiting

If your cat is showing any of these symptoms, please contact your vet for advice as soon as possible - especially if you have a male cat.

Spoiled foods or rubbish may contain mould toxins which can cause signs of toxicity in dogs, including: 

  • vomiting and diarrhoea
  • tremors and wobbliness
  • seizures

 To reduce the risk to your dog, make sure you throw away any contaminated or mouldy food (including pet food).