Zoonotic Diseases…part 2
July 27, 2016
What kinds of zoonotic diseases can I catch from my cat or dog?
Cat scratch disease (bartonellosis) is a bacterial zoonotic disease. It is the most common zoonotic disease spread from cats in the United States. It occurs when a cat bites or scratches a person, leaving an open wound. Symptoms in a human can include swollen lymph nodes, fatigue, headache, or poor appetite. Healthy individuals usually recover quickly with no lasting effects. After a scratch or a bite, wash the affected area thoroughly until healed and monitor for infection.
Salmonellosis is another bacterial disease that can be transmitted from your pet. Animals can carry this bacterium in their stool and pass it to humans that come into contact with the feces. This usually happens with pets that eat a raw or wild diet. Symptoms in humans include diarrhea, abdominal discomfort, and a fever. In healthy individuals, this is usually resolved without medical attention. A good way to avoid this is to cook all meat to 160 degrees F and wash fruits and vegetables before consuming.
Hookworms found in a cat or dog’s feces can cause parasitic infections in humans. This most often affects children who play and come in contact with soil, although anyone who comes into direct contact with feces or contaminated soil can be infected. Dogs often acquire these by running in contaminated feces or dirt and then licking their paws. They then ingest the eggs and pass the hookworms in their own feces. A good way to prevent the spread of these parasitic infections from your pet to you is to bring them in for wellness check-ups and annual fecal tests.
Roundworms are spaghetti-like worms that can be found in an animal’s feces or vomit. They usually acquire these by ingesting contaminated soil. We can also ingest these unintentionally by eating unwashed vegetables from a contaminated garden. Again, by practicing good hygiene and getting annual fecal tests, you can avoid the spread of these.
Ringworm is a skin infection caused by a fungus. Ringworm can be transmitted through direct contact with the infected skin/fur or through contaminated surfaces. An infected animal will release spores from the skin/fur and contaminate the environment. These spores can cause infection for quite a long time. If an animal is known to be infected, confine the animal to one room. Ringworm in a cat or dog appears as a grey, scaly/flakey spot. In humans, it appears as a red, itchy round lesion. This infection is easily spread between you and your pet. If you see signs that could point to ringworm, come in for an appointment as soon as possible!
Toxoplasmosis is a disease that is transmitted through a protozoa called Toxolasma gondii and is usually spread through infected cat feces. Cats can come infected with this either by eating infected feces from another animal or hunting birds or mice that have the infection. This disease is more serious for pregnant women or people with immunodeficiency disorders; however, basic hygiene is usually enough to prevent infection. Washing hands before and after handling the litter box and/or wearing gloves is a good preventative measure to take. If you are especially concerned about this, bring in a fecal sample to be checked to ensure you are not at risk. Your cat is at a higher risk of carrying the infection if they are fed a raw meat diet or if they catch small rodents and are let outside.
Lyme Disease is another disease that can be shared between you and your pet. The vector that transmits this disease is a deer tick. Pets don’t transmit Lyme directly to you, but they can bring ticks in that can then bite you. The symptoms in both humans and animals include fever, lameness, and rashes. This disease highlights another important reason to apply frontline or nexgard on your pet each month. Also, if your pet is prone to be exposed to wooded areas frequently, consider having them get the lyme vaccine. Another important thing to do is check for ticks after being in an outdoor wooded area.
Cryptosporidiosis is a protozoan parasite that is usually found in water. An animal or a human can acquire this disease by drinking pond or lake water that was contaminated by wild animals defecating in it. The symptoms in both animals and humans includes diarrhea, abdominal pain, and vomiting. In healthy people and animals, symptoms last about two weeks. Often, the high volume of water loss due to the vomiting and diarrhea makes it necessary to receive fluids to prevent dehydration.
Rabies is a viral infection that can have extremely serious side effects if not taken care of immediately. In the United States, this disease is most commonly transferred through bats, raccoons, or skunks. It is spread through a bite from an animal that has contaminated saliva. Keep your pet’s rabies vaccination updated to protect you and your pet.
Contributed by Justine Jones, veterinary assistant (and soon to be vet student) at Grand Avenue Veterinary Center