Throughout the 2020 pandemic, there has been a spotlight on the term zoonotic or diseases carried by animals to humans. If you haven’t heard of the term, you are likely familiar with rabies, plague, and intestinal worms. These are all zoonotic diseases. 

As human populations have grown and encroached on former wildlife habitat, many more zoonoses have emerged. Some of these can be transmitted to our pets, which then can be transmitted to us. 

To prevent these diseases from harming your pet and family, the team at Huntington Veterinary Hospital is here to give you a better understanding of zoonotic diseases and pets.

Zoonotic Diseases

When you or your dog or cat is sick, it probably never occurs to you to quarantine from them. Most diseases are species specific, thankfully, but there are those that can be transmitted between animals and people, called zoonotic. Their symptoms range from mild to deadly, such as the case with plague and rabies. 

More recently, we have seen an increase in cases of Leptospirosis, which is picked up through the soil or urine of an infected rodent or other animal to dogs. This has been unsettling because Leptospirosis is a serious disease that humans can acquire from their pets. 

Zoonotic disease that harm pets and people include:

  • Toxoplasmosis – A parasite that is found in cat feces that can harm a developing fetus
  • Lyme disease – A disease that is transmitted through a bite from a tick that is linked to long-term neurological problems and other serious symptoms
  • Rabies  – A fatal disease transmitted through a bite from an infected animal
  • Roundworms and hookworms – These intestinal parasites are found in cats and dogs and  are most often transmitted to children or those with decreased immunity
  • Leptospirosis – A bacterial infection spread through the urine of an infected animal
  • Cat scratch disease – Also called Bartonella, these organisms in flea feces can infect a pet or person through an open wound
  • Giardia This parasitic infection affects the gastrointestinal system and is often contracted through drinking contaminated water 
  • Salmonellosis – Salmonella bacteria are found in food and water, and can also transmitted by handling certain species, such as reptiles

People who are more vulnerable to zoonoses, like those with immunodeficiency or an underlying health condition, seniors, and young children, need better protection while handling animals. 

Preventing Zoonotic Illnesses

Keeping your pet and entire family healthy and free from the zoonotic illnesses that are around us means an ample dose of prevention. Better understanding of those diseases that are most prevalent gives you a leg up in the fight against zoonotic illnesses. Here are some recommendations for better protection for you and your pet.

  • Maintain your pet’s annual or biannual exams, which include blood tests and fecal workups to look for possible illness
  • Keep your pet on the recommended vaccine schedule and parasite control
  • Always wash your hands after handling pet waste and wash your child’s hands after they interact with your pet or other animals
  • Scoop the poop!
  • Remove standing water from the yard, including bird baths
  • Keep your pet from drinking from communal dog bowls or ponds, ditches, or other standing water sources by bringing their water and bowl with you

Zoonotic diseases will always be in our midst, but with the right information to guide you, you can protect your family, including your fur family. For more information on zoonotic diseases and pets, please do not hesitate to call us.