ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) - An Albemarle County man is dealing with the loss of his dog after it contracted a bacterial disease on a swim two weeks ago in the Rivanna River. Brad Perreault hopes his tragedy will deter people from taking their animals out on rivers, ponds, and lakes when water levels are dangerously low.

Perreault says his 3-year-old German shepherd Gunner died of leptospirosis within one week of an all-day swim in the Rivanna River.

"We took him kayaking, as we often do. We started at Darden, went down to Riverview, and ended off in Milton," he said.

Gunner became weak and sick about four days after the trip, and was rushed to the veterinarian. The dog's kidneys were shutting down, and he tested positive for leptospirosis, which vets concluded came from the Rivanna River. The disease normally takes five to seven days to present symptoms, and can be deadly to dogs and humans.

"It's a bacteria that's transmitted in urine, so wet places that other animals have urinated on,” Thomas Jefferson Health District Health Director Denise Bonds explained.

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

While Virginia only sees two to three cases of leptospirosis in humans a year, it's more common in animals.

Leptospirosis and the blue algae bloom that has closed several lakes this summer and killed at least four dogs across the country are not the same. However, this summer's lack of rainfall has led to more concentrated levels of both bacteria in water sources.

"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,” Bonds said. “Swim beaches are probably fine and probably a safe place to go and use the water."

Perreault wants others to be cautious and check water levels and clarity first. It can be hard to tell if a portion of a lake or river is affected, but if something seems off, don't let your dog get in.

The health department says there is no need to avoid the water completely. Also, be sure to rinse off your dog after going for a swim because even if your dog doesn't drink the water, it can contract the disease from cleaning its fur.