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Dog dies after contracting disease from Virginia's Rivanna River

Less than one week after all-day swim in Rivanna River, Gunner died

ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. – An Albemarle County man is warning others about the dangers of having animals spend time in the water when water levels are dangerously low. 

Brad Perreault tells NBC29 that his 3-year-old German shepherd, Gunner, died of leptospirosis within a week of an all-day swim in the Rivanna River.

About four days after the trip, Gunner became sick and was rushed to a veterinarian.

His kidneys were shutting down, and he tested positive for leptospirosis, which vets concluded came from the Rivanna River.

The bacterial disease normally takes five to seven days to present symptoms and can be deadly to dogs and humans.

"We had to say goodbye wrapped up in a hazmat suit, really. It can be transferred to humans, and that's super scary," Perreault told the Charlottesville NBC station.

The health department says there is no need to avoid water completely. 

"Staying away from areas that might look like they are a regular source for other animals to come and get water at - lots of animals use the Rivanna,” Thomas Jefferson Health District Health Director Denise Bonds told NBC29. “Swim beaches are probably fine and probably a safe place to go and use the water."