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Lab results rule out Leptospirosis in at least two dog deaths in North Tacoma

TACOMA, Wash. — Dog owners are on alert after at least two dogs died and at least one additional dog is sick after spending time at a popular park in North Tacoma.

The dog owners say the common denominator: They all frequented Garfield Park in Pierce County.

Veterinarians for two of the dogs told their owners that the dogs were showing signs of Leptospirosis—a bacterial infection that can be deadly to animals and contagious to humans.

Metro Parks Tacoma, which has been working closely with Public Health and the dogs' veterinarians, announced Thursday that lab results ruled out Leptospirosis in at least two of the dogs.

But many heartbroken families are still looking for answers.

Gabby Lockwood posted the first emergency signs around Garfield Park this past Monday after her precious pup Tigger passed away earlier in the day.

"Well, we're OK but our other dog--all night she whines--cause she misses [Tigger] a lot," said Lockwood.

The young girl went door to door warning her neighbors to avoid the puddles after veterinarians told the family the Chihuahua-mix might have contracted Leptospirosis.

"Wildlife, when they urinate in the puddle, it causes disease to spread and then dogs drink from it and then they can contract it," explained Lockwood--whose been researching, worried about other dogs in her neighborhood.

Tigger isn't the only dog that died.

Hudson, a 7 1/2-year-old English sheepdog, couldn't even jump back into the car after playing at Garfield Park.

"He gained nine pounds in 24-hours and his paws were just huge," said Hudson's owner, Vicky Shanaman. "The vet said it would take a miracle for him to survive."

Hudson had to be put down Monday after the mystery illness attacked Hudson's kidneys.

"This is a loved one," said Shanaman. "This was our pet, it’s our family and these dogs burrow their way into your heart."

Now Metro Parks Tacoma is warning dog owners to keep their pets out of the park for now.

Something local veterinary clinics agree with.

"You should be worried and you should be proactive," said Nikki Cowger, a licensed veterinary technician. "When dogs are off leash in a park—there's so many different things that can happen--or get into or be exposed. Not just Lepto, but also poisons or contaminated animals."

Cowger says dog owners need to be extra vigilant for signs that there's a problem.

"If they were to start foaming at the mouth or become unresponsive, if they just became lethargic or impatient after they came back from the park --those are definitely the things you want to look out for."

The North Seattle Vet Clinic warns that while Leptospirosis was ruled out in two of the cases – they actually recommend the vaccine because of the Northwest’s wet conditions. Cowger estimated they give nearly 10 Leptospirosis vaccines a week.

While Leptospirosis was ruled out, the clinic said Parvo, Distemper, and Kennel Cough are other communicable infections that dog owners should watch and vaccinate for.

Additional lab results for the other dogs are expected to be available next week. For now, Metro Parks Tacoma is warning dogs to stay away. The Health Department does not think there is a cause for concern for human health.