A BOLTON vets is one of the first in the country to offer a new vaccine to protect against a disease spread by rats.

The vaccine, available at Queens Park Veterinary Surgery, Chorley New Road, offers dogs broader protection against one of the most widespread canine diseases — Leptospirosis.

In November, the Bolton News reported the town is among the worst places in the country for pest control callouts to deal with rats.

Of 326 local authorities analysed by the British Pest Control Association (BPCA), Bolton had the 30th largest rate of callouts overall per thousand people in the country, and was the second worst in Greater Manchester behind Wigan.

Stuart Edwards, who bought the practice seven years ago, said: “Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease affecting many animal species, including dogs and occasionally humans.

“Carried by rats and other rodents, it survives in damp environments including still or slow moving water.

“Any dog that exercises outdoors is at risk of this potentially fatal disease, which is why we strongly recommend annual vaccination.

“I’ve seen rats in the park. Where there are rats, there is a risk. It’s transmitted via rat urine. Wherever there’s rat wee, that is potentially anywhere, but more likely water courses, lakes, rivers and streams.

The human equivalent of the illness is weil's disease and, in animals, it could cause the dog to become jaundice, suffering possible kidney failure and death.

There have been vaccines for targeting what were the two most common forms of the bacterium for decades but, in recent years, new strains have emerged in Europe. Mr Edwards said: “It’s only now that we can defend against these threats using this new vaccine, which targets four strains of the disease rather than the traditional two.

“The welfare of animals in our local community is what drives our practice and we strongly believe in offering the best care and protection available.

“We are therefore delighted to confirm that we will be using the new four strain Leptospirosis vaccine for all future dog vaccinations, at no extra cost to our clients.

“If owners would like to know more about the disease risk or our vaccination programme then we would be very happy to talk.”