Zoonotic Diseases, Your Pet, and You
There has been some discussion around the topic of animal-borne illnesses since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. How animals can transmit diseases to humans (also called zoonoses) is a conversation that cannot be ignored, considering Rabies, Salmonella, SARS, Ebola, and now the coronavirus. There have been zoonotic diseases in our midst for a long time, some of which can be contracted by interacting with our pet companions.
To help protect you and your furry loved one from zoonotic diseases, the team at the Whole Pet Vet Hospital and Wellness Center is here to provide information for pet owners on this potentially deadly topic.
Like other animals, our pets are susceptible to zoonoses unless they are vaccinated against them or protected through parasite control. You may be surprised to learn that the plague is still around and has been popping up in the West in prairie dog populations. Although that is an extreme example, there are some more serious diseases that are often reported in pets.
- Rabies – Rabies is by far the most life-threatened of common diseases that can be passed to humans. Once the symptoms have progressed, most people die from this illness. For this reason, the rabies vaccine is mandatory by state law for all dogs and sometimes cats, depending on where you are.
- Leptospirosis – An otherwise unheard of zoonotic illness, Leptospirosis has been on the rise in several cities over the past few years. This disease is caused by the bacteria, leptospira, and can cause liver and kidney failure.
- Intestinal worms – Roundworms (Toxocara canis) and tapeworms (Echinococcus species) can be contracted through handling pet waste. Children and the elderly are more at risk, or those with immunodeficiency.
- Salmonellosis – The salmonella bacteria is found in raw meat and the feces of animals, where it is shed. Salmonellosis causes serious gastrointestinal issues, which can lead to dehydration.
- Lyme disease – This well known disease caused by a tick bite can create long-lasting effects in humans and dogs. Common signs include fever, joint inflammation, lethargy, and swollen lymph nodes. It can also lead to problems with the kidneys, heart, and nervous system.
- Giardia infection – This is another organism that is contracted through water that causes severe gastrointestinal problems. It is also found in soil and feces from infected animals.
Other zoonotic diseases carried by our four-legged companions include:
- Campylobacter infection
- Cryptosporidium infection
Reducing the Risk
There are some great ways to keep these terrible diseases from affecting your pet and human family through the following:
- Vaccinate your pet and keep them up to date on parasite preventives
- Wash your hands after handling pet waste
- Make sure children wash their hands after handling animals
- Keep your pet bathed and groomed
- Never allow your pet to drink from natural water sources, like ditches and ponds
- Bring your pet’s bowl and clean water to the dog park and parks, to avoid communal water bowls
If you would like more information on zoonotic disease or would like to schedule an appointment, please contact us.