Zoonotic Disease – My Pet Can Give Me What?!

Yes, unfortunately it’s true! The thought that your furry family member could potentially pass onto you a disease or infection gives you the ‘heebie jeebies’ just thinking about it! What does ‘zoonotic’ mean you say? It means that these types of diseases can be passed from animals to humans. They can be spread by viruses, bacteria, parasites, and even fungi. Not only can your dog give you something but you can also transmit certain diseases to your dog—illnesses like sore throats, tuberculosis and enteritis (inflammation of the intestine that can cause diarrhea—its due to Campylobacter and Salmonella bugs) can be passed from an infected family member to your pup.

While your risk directly from your pet may be somewhat minimal, some people are more at risk than others. According to the CDC, people with a compromised immune system and also young children, the elderly, and pregnant women are more likely to be infected by a zoonotic disease. This is because their immune systems are already hard at work. Higher risks affect those that have AIDS/HIV, chemotherapy or radiation therapy patients, suffer from a chronic disease or immune deficiency and also organ or bone marrow transplant recipients.

Easy precautions you can take such as monitoring your pet for signs of illness, and washing your hands after extensive contact with your pets are easy ways to keep both you and your pet safe. People who may be high risk should do their best to avoid direct contact with dog feces or urine. Pregnant women should hand over those wonderful cleaning of the cat’s litterbox responsibilities to someone else throughout their pregnancy, to avoid any possibility of contracting the zoonotic disease called toxoplasmosis.

So how many types of zoonotic diseases are they? Unfortunately, there’s many with the most common ones being Ringworm, Salmonellosis, Leptospirosis, Lyme, Campylobacter infection, Giardia infection, Cryptosporidium infection, Roundworms, Hookworms, Scabies, Harvest Mites, and the big one—Rabies. These zoonotic diseases you can contract locally are just the tip of the iceberg—there are ones that can be transmitted by eating undercooked meat, fish, and poultry. Then there’s ones that you can contract from exotic animals and also places you travel to.

Yes, parasites causing zoonotic diseases are everywhere…good news is there’s ways to keep you and your pet safe so you don’t fall victim to these nasty bugs. Many of these common zoonotic diseases can be found during your pet’s routine annual exam with us, when bloodwork and stool samples are taken and submitted for testing. Just one of many reasons why these routine diagnostics are so important. Vaccines are available to protect your pet from these zoonotic diseases – as we always say, prevention is key in helping keep your pet protected. Also adopting healthy hygiene habits go a long way as well. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has some simple and helpful guidelines to follow:

  • Wash your hands with soap and running water after contact with dogs, dog saliva, or dog stool.
  • Avoid bites and scratches from dogs. Dog bites might become seriously infected or might be a source of rabies. Be cautious with unfamiliar animals. Approach dogs with care, even if they seem friendly.
  • Pick up and dispose of dog stools, especially in areas where children might play. Cleaning up after your dog will keep the area clean and reduce the risk of spreading disease to people or other animals.
  • Make sure to clean up any urine, feces, or vomit in the house immediately, and disinfect the area as well. Use disposable gloves, and make sure to wash your hands thoroughly afterwards.
  • Visit your veterinarian for routine evaluations and healthcare, to keep both your pet healthy and to also prevent infectious diseases.

Stay tuned for more great information on causes, symptoms, treatment and prevention of zoonotic disease in our blog series 😊