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Chatham couple's heartbreak after Labrador puppy contracts rare disease, Leptospirosis, spread through rat urine


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A couple left heartbroken after being forced to give up their Labrador puppy who contracted a rare disease have spoken out to boost awareness.

Dog owner Rich Stent said six-month old Chester first fell ill last weekend and by Monday his condition had rapidly deteriorated.

Labrador puppy Chester in better times.
Labrador puppy Chester in better times.

The 34-year-old, who lives in Chatham with partner Jess, described the loveable Lab as their "baby".

So when the whites of Chester's eyes turned yellow and the usually playful pup became lethargic, they took him to a vet in Gillingham.

Rich said: "On Saturday, we took him out for a walk and generally he is a greedy boy but he was not interested in his food and was very lethargic.

"He struggled to go to the toilet and stopped eating and drinking.

"On Sunday he was looking more and more uncomfortable and still wasn't eating to the point that on Monday he just laid on the floor and he was not even half the puppy he was."

Rich Stent with Labrador puppy Chester. Photo: Jess Love
Rich Stent with Labrador puppy Chester. Photo: Jess Love

After being assessed by vets, it was discovered Chester had contracted Leptospirosis, known as "Lepto", a rare, bacterial disease which is often spread through rat urine and if left untreated can be fatal.

Symptoms include lethargy, loss of appetite, reluctance to move, increased thirst and vomiting.

It is typically transmitted through dog-to-dog contact but can also be passed via infected wet ground and urine.

Rich, who works as a train driver, says they were quoted huge vet bills for keeping the Labrador in under observation for the next two weeks which would not have been covered by insurance.

So with costs spiralling by the day and no improvement in Chester's condition they feared the worst.

The couple looked into opportunities to set up payment plans to fund treatments but this was not deemed viable.

Chester is fighting for his life after contracting Leptospirosis, a rare disease spread through rat urine and dog-to-dog contact.
Chester is fighting for his life after contracting Leptospirosis, a rare disease spread through rat urine and dog-to-dog contact.

"We could not afford the bill," added Rich. "We were looking at a bill in excess of £30,000 and we would not have been able to raise that sort of money.

"We didn't want to financially cripple ourselves for the rest of our lives but at the same time we wanted to do the best by Chester."

That's when the couple got in touch with the Labrador Rescue Kent & Borders, based in Cranbrook, who offered to fund Chester's care.

Sadly for Rich and Jess it meant handing over their puppy for good.

"We will never be re-united, we have signed him over and lost all rights," said Rich.

"It has left us heartbroken. We feel like we have got a massive void in our lives now.

Chester fell ill after contracting Leptospirosis. Photo: Labrador Rescue Kent
Chester fell ill after contracting Leptospirosis. Photo: Labrador Rescue Kent

But he added: "They are going to give him a fighting chance which we could not give him."

He explained how when the couple first got Chester he received an initial vaccination, known as Lepto 2, which helps guard against certain strains of the disease but sadly not all.

Vaccination against Lepto does not prevent the risk of infection, but greatly reduces the chance of infected dogs developing the disease.

Rich says they later found out they had been given conflicting information on jabs for their pet.

"When we got him they said they did two injections," he said.

"He had two and we were told he had to have the same one unless he started the vaccination again. They never mentioned anything about Lepto 4 and so he was not fully protected."

Labrador pup Chester is now being looked after at an animal rescue centre in Cranbrook. Photo: Jess Love
Labrador pup Chester is now being looked after at an animal rescue centre in Cranbrook. Photo: Jess Love

Now the couple are urging other dog owners to double check their records and ensure their pets are up to speed with their jabs.

"It is one of the biggest killer diseases," said Rich. "So we want to make sure that people fully vaccinate their puppies."

He added: "We have only done what we have been told and it is just unfortunate he has picked this disease up."

Rich said the support from the charity has been "absolutely amazing".

The couple now want to give something back and so are planning to undergo a series of walking and hiking challenges to raise money for the centre.

"If we didn't have the choice of Labrador Rescue we would have had to make the decision to put him to sleep," he said.

"We are going to do some fundraising for the charity and donate regularly and do every thing we can to help.

"It may not even scratch the surface but if it can help Chester or any other dog, it will be worth it."

For more information on Labrador Rescue Kent & Borders and how you can donate and get involved click here.

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