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Dog dies from rat-transmitted disease; family urging other owners to get vaccine – wmar2news.com

BALTIMORE — Staxx Pasta, a three-year-old Biewer Terrier, had his owners wrapped around his little paw.
“He was a little king. Like I said, he was groomed more than anybody in the house,” said Tammy Pasta.
Tammy Pasta and her husband prioritized his health, so when Staxx stopped eating on January 12, they monitored him. After a day, he stopped barking.
“He wasn’t making a sound,” Pasta recalled.
They brought him to an emergency veterinarian hospital where they had to make a decision every pet owner dreads.
“He was going into kidney failure and liver failure,” said Pasta. “And [the veterinarian] let us know that we should probably come say our goodbyes.”
Four days after showing symptoms, Staxx was euthanized.
“See how yellow his neck and his belly, everything was just turned from one week difference. One week difference, and this is what it did,” said Pasta. “It’s so quiet here now. I just don’t have words for the absence that we feel.”
Test results came back positive for leptospiroris, a bacterial disease spread through the urine of infected animals.
“Rats have become the predominant source of it,” said Dr. Jonathan Kaufman, a veterinarian with Eastern Animal Hospital.
Dr. Kaufman sees this disease in their practice quite often.
“What you would see in your pet would be lethargy, acting very tired, vomiting, diarrhea, and ultimately, their skin would turn yellow with jaundice,” said Kaufman
“It’s deadly?” asked WMAR-2 News Mallory Sofastaii.
“Deadly. Very deadly,” Kaufman responded.
But he added that an annual vaccine can prevent it.
“For [Eastern Animal Hospital], it’s mandatory or a core vaccine. In different areas, the American Veterinary Medical Association does by region what is considered a core vaccine, and in some areas, it’s not,” Kaufman explained.
In Baltimore City, he recommends all pets be vaccinated because of the rat population. Pasta lives in Baltimore County, and had no idea about this non-core vaccine.
“I never even heard of the disease, let alone given the chance to address the issue and have him vaccinated for it,” said Pasta.
She did know her neighborhood, where she’s lived for less than a year, has a rat problem.
“There’s one here. Here. There. Up there,” said Regina Ingle, Pasta’s neigbor, as she pointed out different rat holes.
Ingle documents this issue and notifies the county and elected officials.
“Yeah, it’s been literally over 10 years that this has been an ongoing problem,” Ingle said.
During that time, she’s filed complaints, most recently on December 26, two weeks before Staxx fell ill.
“I know all the [complaints] that I have filed keep coming back closed, no violation,” said Ingle.
She pointed to a dumpster at a nearby apartment complex as a major trash source contributing to this problem. And many of the rat holes appear to be on county-owned land, opposite of Ingle and Pasta’s homes.
This disgusting issue has been costly.
“A couple of weeks ago, rat nest under the hood of my car. I had almost $3,000 worth of damage to my car,” said Ingle.
And there are serious health concerns as leptospirosis can also spread to humans.
“There were some kids just up on this hill the other day when it snowed and they were sliding down the hill and there are rat holes right there,” Ingle recalled.
WMAR-2 News contacted the County Executive’s office about the history of complaints and lack of citations. In an email, Erica Palmisano, Press Secretary for the Office of Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski, wrote:
“The rats are all over up here. There’s one right now!” Ingle exclaimed.
“They’re not just here and there, they’re there at all times. And I feel like if, if it would have been addressed and taken seriously, my dog would still be here,” Pasta added. “My whole reason for doing this is to please, please, if your animal is not vaccinated, or if you’re not sure, call and ask and make an appointment. You’ll be saving a life.”
Pasta and Ingle feel this is an urgent issue and recently mailed flyers to their neighbors letting them know about this serious health concern and to contact the county for a faster response.
Dr. Kaufman added that the vaccine is very safe and recommends pet owners check with their veterinarians to determine if it may be right for their dog.
A spokesperson with the American Veterinary Medical Association provided the information below:
According to the Maryland Health Department, there have been 10 total human cases confirmed in the last five years.
The Maryland Department of Agriculture Animal Health program has tested for leptospirosis in 203 cases since 2020, however, they did not say how many of those tests were positive. WMAR-2 News has requested this information.
And the Maryland Veterinary Medical Association told Sofastaii they don’t currently have a stance on whether all dogs should be vaccinated for leptospiroris.
Click here for more information on leptospiroris and its symptoms, plus a list of core and non-core vaccines by the American Animal Hospital Association.


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