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Zoonotic Diseases – The Threat They Share With You


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The interaction between pets and humans can be a very rewarding experience. However, animals can transmit diseases to humans, especially young children and people with debilitating medical conditions. These are called zoonotic diseases or zoonoses. There are two basic types of zoonotic diseases. Some of these can be directly transmitted from animals to humans and others that affect both people and animals. In this article we will describe both types. It is very important to take precautions to protect both your family and your pets from these diseases. Zoonotic diseases should not be one of the things you share with your pet.cat photo


Here are some of the common zoonotic diseases that can affect people:


Cat Scratch Fever – This is a flea borne infection that is typically transmitted from a cat’s scratch or bite. Signs may include pimples at the scratch site and swollen lymph nodes. These symptoms may persist for six weeks or more.


Ehrlichiosis – This tick-transmitted disease is caused by a bacterium and can cause fever, muscle aches, vomiting and other, more serious symptoms. Many of these cases require hospitalization.


Giardia – Humans can become infected when they drink water or come into cantact with feces containing the parasite Giardia lamblia. Signs include diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea and vomiting.


Leptospirosis – This is a bacterial disease spread by contact with urine from infected animals including dogs, raccoons, squirrels, skunks and deer. There are over 50 strains of this bacterium. In humans this disease can cause fever, severe headache, vomiting and, if left untreated, liver and kidney failure. Our new distemper combination vaccine used in your dog now contains four strains of Leptospirosis (previous vaccines only contained two strains) to protect your dog against the common strains of this disease.


Lyme Disease – This is another tick-transmitted disease that causes fever, lameness, arthritis, kidney and heart damage. In our area of upstate New York the number of cases of this disease has risen dramatically in recent years.


Rabies – This disease is caused by a virus found in the saliva of infected animals and can be transmitted to people by bites from these animals. In New York the most common vectors are raccoons, bats and skunks. All mammalian species are susceptible and it is invariable fatal if not promptly treated.


Ringworm – This is a fungal infection of the skin that can be contracted by contacting the skin or fur of an infected dog or cat. Signs include a bald patch of scaly skin on the scalp, or a ring shaped, itchy rash on the skin. Some animals can be carriers and not exhibit any signs of this infection.


Roundworms/Hookworms – These are two intestinal parasites of dogs and cats that can afflict humans when they come in contact with infected feces from infested animals. Most cases in humans are young children that inadvertently put contaminated feces in their mouth. Signs include a rash or eye inflammation.


Toxoplasmosis – This is a parasitic disease spread by contact with cat feces in soil or litter, although the major route of transmission is contaminated meat. It can cause serious health problems in pregnant women or in people with compromised immune systems.


There are some simple ways to protect you and your family. The first line of defense is to always wash your hands after touching, playing with or caring for pets. When handling the stool of any animal use disposable plastic gloves. Avoid kissing your pet or allowing him/her to lick your face. After a day in the woods check your pet, yourself and your kids for ticks. If you are pregnant, someone else in the family needs to clean the cat’s litter box. If you must do it yourself, wear plastic gloves and wash your hands immediately after changing the litter. If you are scratched or bitten, wash the area with soap and water right away. If there is any concern on your part you may have contracted a disease contact your doctor.


Many zoonotic diseases can be prevented in you pet through vaccination. Currently there are vaccines to prevent Leptospirosis, Lyme disease, Rabies and Giardia.


Wellness exams performed by our doctors twice a year can detect and treat zoonotic infection before they become serious or are transmitted to other pets or other people in your home. Utilizing flea and tick control each month is one barrier to keeping your household members parasite free. Do not allow your pet to come in contact with feces or urine of other animals or allow them to drink from standing water outdoors. Always remove food, garbage or nesting materials from your yard that may attract disease-carrying wildlife.


If you have further questions about zoonotic diseases or how to protect your pets and family from these diseases feel free to contact us at (315) 337-4160 during business hours.


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