Your Dog and Rats in New York City — What are the risks?


New York City has a well known rodent population, with stories and myths to go with it (Rat King anyone?).  While your dog is unlikely to have direct contact with these amazing creatures, there are a few risks you need to know about, and be prepared to handle.


(1)  Leptospirosis — “lepto” is a bacterial disease, spread in the urine of rodents, rats and mice included.  It can be passed between most mammals, including dogs, cats, and people.  The disease is especially scary, because some animals show no symptoms of infection, while others can become severely ill, and even die, in just hours.

Have you ever bought a soda at the bodega and wondered why you got a straw?  It’s one way of preventing leptospirosis — if a rat has urinated on the can, and you then drink directly from it, you can come into contact with this deadly bacteria.  The same is true for your dog — if a carrier animal has urinated on the sidewalk or bush your dog is sniffing, he can become infected.

Prevention: there is a vaccination available, and can be started in puppies as young as twelve weeks old.  At Uptown Vets we use a new formulation of the vaccine that is just half the volume of traditional vaccines, making it more comfortable for your pet, and less likely to cause reactions.

Treatment: if your pet is lethargic, not eating, drinking or urinating more than normal, or otherwise ill, please contact us or an emergency hospital immediately; urgent treatment is needed!


(2) Bites — if your dog gets into an altercation with a rat, bite or scratch wounds should be treated to prevent infection, and your pet’s rabies vaccine may need to be boostered.  While reports of rabies in NYC are rare, they do happen, and rats are one of the possible transmitting species.  Rabies infections are always fatal, and keeping your pets’ up to date on preventative vaccines is important.


(3) Dead rats — dogs will be dogs, and we get the occasional report of a patient of ours eating a dead rat.  There are three problems with this: (a) this may upset her stomach, (b) your pet may be exposed to any diseases that rat was carrying, and (c ) if the rat died from poison, your dog needs to be treated for the poison as well.  If your dog eats a rat, let us know ASAP.  We can often administer a special medication to make him vomit, getting the offending rodent out of the way before it can be digested.


For more information on living with pets in New York City, or to make an appointment, please visit our website.


Uptown Vets   –   295 West 112th St, New York, NY

(212) 222-1221   –