Wildlife, Pets, and People: A Closer Look at Zoonotic Diseases
Zoonotic diseases or illnesses are those that can be transmitted to other species, including humans. This type of disease is alarming, especially in areas where humans and animals are housed close together. Most of us recognize some of the more infamous zoonoses, such as rabies and Lyme disease.
Your team at Conrad Weiser Animal Hospital is here to give you a better understanding of zoonotic disease and your pets. We hope to protect you and your loved ones, including the furry family members, through this important information.
Zoonotic illnesses are those contagious pathogens that can be spread between species. Millions of humans have been affected by one or more forms of zoonoses and these organisms continue to be on the rise in cities worldwide. Each zoonosis is borne from a virus, bacteria, or fungi. These are spread between species through:
- Direct contact with the infected animal or through their blood, saliva, urine, etc.
- Insects such as fleas, mosquitoes, and ticks.
- Indirect contact through infected sleeping quarters, soil, and water.
- Foodborne pathogens like E. coli contracted through spoiled meat, undercooked meat, etc.
Who Is at Risk?
All people are susceptible to a zoonotic disease. Certain individuals may be at a higher risk of developing worse symptoms, including the elderly, children, and those with autoimmune disorders.
Common Zoonotic Diseases in Pets
Since we spend a lot of up-close and personal time with our furry friends, it’s important to understand the diseases they potentially carry. Pets who are outdoors often and unvaccinated pose a greater risk of being carriers of disease.There are some more common zoonotic diseases that show up in pets, which include:
- Rabies – A fatal illness in both pets and people. All 50 States require pets to be vaccinated against rabies.
- Leptospirosis – A bacterial infection that is spread through the urine of an infected animal, usually dogs.
- Toxoplasmosis – An illness carried in the feces of cats that can harm developing fetuses and cause miscaariage.
- Intestinal worms – These worms, such as hookworm and roundworm, can cause gastrointestinal issues and anemia. Intestinal parasites come from the ingestion of even a small amount of dirt (what kid doesn’t get his hands dirty?). Approximately 15% of people have been infected by roundworms at one time or another.
- Cat scratch fever (Bartonella) – These organisms get into the bloodstream through a cut or scratch from a cat which causes fever, body aches, and so on.
- Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, and multiple other tick borne diseases – Both are vector-borne illnesses that have lasting effects and are difficult to treat.
There are hundreds of zoonotic diseases that exist in the world. Parasites, bacteria, fungi, viruses, and other pathogens are hard to avoid without the right steps to better protection. To avoid brining a zoonotic illness into the home, practice the following safety tips:
- Have your pet screened annually for parasites and maintain their vaccinations.
- Keep them on a flea, tick, and heartworm preventive year-round.
- Bravecto, and other oral flea/tick preventatives are by far the best products to decrease the chance of disease transmission.
- The heartworm preventative, Sentinel, also treats roundworms and hookworms; both are zoonotic intestinal parasites.
- Periodically check for fleas and ticks, as well as any other skin abnormalities.
- Bring your pet’s own water and bowl when going to the park, avoiding open, communinal dog bowls.
- Prevent your dog from sniffing in soil or drinking from ditches, ponds, and standing water.
- Don’t let your dog inspect or chase wild animals.
- Make it a habit to thoroughly wash hands after handling your pet or cleaning up their litter and waste.
If you have additional questions on zoonotic diseases and your pets, please do not hesitate to contact us. We look forward to seeing you and your fur friend at their next wellness examination.
Conrad Weiser Animal Hospital:
Where big city medicine and surgery meet small town customer service and value.
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