Veterinary Public Health

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Veterinary Public Health Program
313 N Figueroa St. Rm 1127
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Tel (213) 989-7060
Fax (213) 481-2375
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Animal Disease Surveillance in Los Angeles County

Why Should We Track Diseases in Animals?

People and animals share the same environment, and even share many of the same diseases. Certain diseases in animals can be directly spread from animal to human (e.g. rabies). Other diseases are spread to both people and animals within the environment (e.g. West Nile Virus through mosquitoes, fungal diseases like coccidioidomycosis through the soil).

Tracking diseases in animals  provides a more complete understanding of a disease in the community than just tracking it in people. In some cases, diseases are found in animals before they are found in humans (e.g. parasite eyeworm called Onchocerca lupi in dogs in Los Angeles (LA) County). 

Throughout most of the world, there is little or no ongoing surveillance data on diseases in dogs, cats and wildlife. Since many diseases in animals are zoonotic, this lack of data constitutes a large gap in public health surveillance.

Dogs and cats live in very close proximity to people in LA County, and can therefore transmit diseases directly or may bring infected fleas or ticks into homes. Multiple species of wildlife, especially birds, raccoons, skunks, opossums, and several bat species, thrive in urban and suburban settings, and can also bring zoonotic and vectorborne diseases into human living areas.

The Origins of Animal Disease Surveillance in LA County

Los Angeles (LA) County has access to more data on companion animal infectious disease than most jurisdictions due to local ordinances established in 1926. These ordinances require reporting of infectious diseases in animals. They were created after one of the largest Foot-and-Mouth Disease outbreaks in United States history affected LA County and other parts of California.

As the county urbanized during the 20th century, these ordinances were rarely used. The Veterinary Public Health Program (VPH) re-established surveillance for animal diseases after the anthrax attacks in the United States in 2001. Veterinary clinics and animal shelters were first notified of the renewed reporting requirement in 2002. In 2007, a list of priority diseases for reporting was created and distributed. Since then, data on a variety of infectious diseases has been collected. This data is summarized, analyzed, and then shared with the public to encourage preventative efforts

Small dog sitting near fluffy toy


Case Definitions

Case definitions are algorithms for categorizing cases of disease as Confirmed, Probable, or Suspected. They provide a means for clear and consistent tracking of disease.

Because Los Angeles County is unique in the nation in performing disease surveillance in all species, The LA County Veterinary Public Health Program created case definitions. All were developed in consultation with scientific articles, books on infectious disease, notes on test interpretation by veterinary commercial laboratories, as well as by reviewing actual cases of disease that had been reported in LA County.

Case definitions on each disease will be updated periodically as additional scientific evidence is available.

Coccidioidomycosis in Animals

Heartworm Disease

Leptospirosis in Dogs

Parvovirus in Dogs

Last updated: October 20, 2015



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