Cat at vet exam sniffing vial of medicine.

Over the past few centuries, we have had the pleasure of being the company of a wide range of animals, from farm animals like cows, pigs, and sheep to our domestic indoor friends, dogs, cats, and small and exotic animals. The time we have spent with furry, scaled, and feathered companions have given us fascination, love, and companionship

Unfortunately, as with any species, humans included, certain diseases and illnesses are present and can be shared between certain species. Since the onset of SARS, coronavirus, and other contagious diseases, you have probably heard the word, zoonotic. There are a few zoonotic diseases that our pets can come into contact with (and expose to their human family, too). Let’s take a closer look at some of these and their prevention.

What Is a Zoonosis?

Zoonotic diseases are those that can be passed between animals and people. They range from mild to serious,and some of them can be fatal, such as with rabies. As we interact with, live with, and maintain the capture of more animals worldwide, these zoonotic diseases continue to emerge.

Some of the more common zoonotic diseases that affect pets include:

  • Lyme disease
  • Toxoplasmosis
  • Rabies
  • Plague
  • Leptospirosis
  • Hookworms
  • Roundworms
  • Cat scratch disease 

How Are These Illnesses Transmitted?

Zoonoses are caused by viruses, parasites, bacteria, and fungi. They are often acquired from a pet coming into contact with an infected animal or their bodily fluids. Because they are quite different in how they manifest as symptoms in pets and people, there is no one symptom to watch for. However, fever, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, lethargy, and kidney/liver problems are common.

Transmission generally occurs the following ways:

  • Direct contact with the blood, feces, urine, or saliva of an infected animal
  • Indirect contact through soil, water, food, and animal enclosures, such as cages and pens
  • Vectors like mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks
  • Undercooked or raw meat

Humans who are most at risk of becoming ill are children, the elderly, and those who are immunocompromised. Any person or (unvaccinated) pet can be at risk, though.

Preventing Zoonotic Disease

There are several ways you can prevent the spread of zoonoses and protect your family, including your pets. 

  • Ensure that your pet is up to date on vaccinations and parasite control
  • Keep your pet’s annual wellness examination appointments, where they are screened for illness and parasites
  • Wash your hand thoroughly after handling animals, including your pet, as well as after cleaning up their litter or waste
  • Check for ticks and other parasites on your pet’s skin after they spend time outdoors
  • Don’t let your pet drink from standing water, like ditches, ponds, etc. and bring their own water and bowl with you when you go out to parks and other dog friendly areas
  • Prevent your pet from chasing and investigating wildlife or eating rodents

If you would like additional suggestions on protecting your family from zoonotic diseases, or would like to schedule an appointment, please contact the team at Animal Family Veterinary Care Center