Your pets offer unconditional love, devotion and loyalty, but they can also offer their human family members some unwanted gifts of zoonotic diseases. While some of these conditions can be serious, they can also be prevented. Awareness of the following illnesses and a conversation with your veterinarian will help you to be proactive in protecting you and your family.
Scary Diseases Your Pet May Be Exposing You To
Rabies is a fatal viral disease that attacks the central nervous system. It is transmitted through bite wounds from infected animals. Bats are among the most common vectors of rabies. Dogs, cats and humans contract the disease when bitten by an infected wild animal or pet. To reduce the incidence of rabies, state laws now mandate that all dogs and cats must be vaccinated against the disease. Learn here how to Prevent Pet Diseases With Vaccinations. Follow your veterinarian’s recommendations to keep your pet current on the rabies vaccine for effective protection.
Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that infects the kidneys and liver. The urine from an animal that has the disease is highly infectious to other animals and to humans. Dogs are most likely to contract leptospirosis by drinking water from puddles that have been contaminated with urine from infected wildlife. Humans contract the disease from their infected pets by failing to wear gloves and failing to properly decontaminate the environment while caring for the pets. Leptospirosis is more prevalent in some geographical regions than in others. A vaccine is available to protect your dog against leptospirosis. Speak with your veterinarian about the incidence in your region, and ask if the leptospirosis vaccine is recommended for your dog.
Roundworms and Hookworms
Roundworms and hookworms are intestinal parasites that can affect dogs, cats and humans. Ingesting stool is the usual route for contracting these parasites, which is of particular concern in toddlers and young children who are indiscriminate about touching things and then placing their hands in their mouths. You can reduce the risk by encouraging diligent hand washing habits in your household and by keeping your dog on a heartworm preventative throughout the year. Most heartworm preventatives also offer protection against roundworms and hookworms.
Giardia is a protozoan form of intestinal parasite that dogs and cats contract by drinking from stagnant, contaminated water and by ingesting stool from another animal that is infected with the parasite. Humans can contract the illness by drinking from a contaminated water supply, but young children are at the greatest risk for ingesting stool. Giardia can be treated in dogs, cats and humans. Encourage all family members to wash their hands frequently, be diligent about cleaning up waste from your pet and have your pet’s stool tested annually for all of the common intestinal parasites.
Tapeworms are intestinal parasites that develop from fleas that are ingested when your dog or cat grooms itself. While it is unlikely that you will gulp down a flea from your pet, very young children who nuzzle and rub their faces on their furry companions while hugging and playing may inadvertently do so. Eliminate the risk by using a flea preventative product on your pets.
Ringworm is not a worm at all. It is a fungal skin infection that is contagious among dogs, cats and humans. Ringworm spores are easily brushed off of skin, pet bedding, cat furniture and clothing to infiltrate the environment and infect other pets and people in the home. If you observe any small patches of hair loss on your pet, bring it to a veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment.
Scabies, or sarcoptic mange, is caused by mites that burrow into the skin. Scabies is highly contagious between pets and humans, but the mite that affects your pets is unable to complete its life cycle on a human host. Once the pet is treated, the owner’s symptoms usually subside. If your dog or cat is extremely itchy, have the pet evaluated by a veterinarian so that treatment can begin. You can help to prevent scabies by limiting your pet’s contact with other animals outside of the home.
Toxoplasmosis is a protozoan parasite that cats contract by consuming infected small mammals or birds. The parasite is shed in the cat’s feces. Sadly, many physicians erroneously advise pregnant women to get rid of their feline friends. In reality, humans are more likely to contract toxoplasmosis by consuming raw or undercooked meat or unwashed vegetables that were grown in contaminated soil. As with any other parasite that is shed in feces, such hygienic precautions as wearing gloves while cleaning the litter box and washing hands thoroughly afterwards will eliminate the risk for contracting toxoplasmosis from an infected cat.
Cat Scratch Disease
Cat scratch disease, which is also known as bartonellosis, is shed in the feces of fleas and ingested by cats through grooming. Humans can contract the disease when they are bitten or scratched by infected cats. People with open lacerations or lesions are also at risk when handling an infected cat. Prevent cat scratch disease by your keeping cats indoors and by using a flea preventative product on all household pets.
Although your cannot contract Lyme disease directly from your pet, ticks that transmit Lyme disease and other tick borne illnesses can come indoors on your pet’s coat. When these ticks bite you, then you are at risk for developing Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and other debilitating diseases. Reduce the risks that threaten you and your pets by using a flea and tick preventative on all of your dogs and cats.
By following your veterinarian’s recommended guidelines to keep your pets healthy, you will dramatically reduce the risk for zoonotic diseases and maintain one big happy and healthy family in your home.