A woman bends down to pet her dog.
Woman feeding dog.

This past year the global pandemic has been on everyone’s mind, but you probably haven’t thought about your pet (including exotics) in this age of social distancing. 

You may have even heard more about the term zoonosis these days, which means a disease that can be passed from animals to people. House pets do carry their own illnesses, some of which can be transmitted to humans – Salmonella, for example.  

Many pet owners have asked about different viruses and other diseases and whether they can be transmitted to their human family. The team at Parkside Animal Hospital is here to explain more about zoonotic disease and how you can protect your entire family, pet family included.

What Is a Zoonotic Diseases

Zoonotic diseases are those which can be passed from non-humans to humans, ranging from mild to life-threatening. These diseases are caused by a bacteria, virus, fungi, or parasite. To date, there are over a hundred known zoonotic diseases that can impact our pet companions and human family. 

Along with cats and dogs, other domestic and exotic animals can carry diseases, such as rabbits and small mammals, reptiles, horses, pigs, birds, and cattle. People with compromised  immune systems, children, those who work directly with animals, the elderly, and pregnant women are more susceptible to picking up zoonotic illnesses, but anyone is at risk. 

Common Zoonoses

Among the hundred or so diseases spread by domestic animals, there are some that are more frequently diagnosed and treated.

  • Rabies
  • E. coli
  • Hepatitis E
  • Hookworms
  • Ringworms
  • Cat Scratch Fever
  • Salmonella
  • Scabies
  • Tapeworms
  • Leptospirosis
  • Toxoplasmosis

Although rabies cases are rare in North America, the disease is fatal. This is why it is mandated by law that dogs (and sometimes cats) must be vaccinated against this deadly disease. 

How Are These Diseases Transmitted?

Depending on the type of pathogen, some of the illnesses are more easily spread than others. Most of them are transferred in the following way:

  1. Direct contact with the infected animals including blood, saliva, urine, feces, and mucous.
  2. Water-borne, such as  drinking from contaminated water.
  3. Foodborne from ingesting undercooked, raw, or contaminated produce and meat.
  4. Vector-borne from parasites such as fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes.
  5. Indirect contact when the disease can be spread from surfaces and items still have the virus, bacteria, etc. active and transmissible.

Protecting Your Household

Since zoonotic diseases are prevalent across the globe, it is important to understand how to keep your pet and family safe. Here are some recommendations to reduce the risk.

  • Ensure your pet is fully vaccinated and on a year-round parasite control program that protects against fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water after handling animals or their waste. 
  • Make sure children in the home wash their hands after playing with the family pet.
  • Have cats and dogs do an annual fecal test and ask about deworming.
  • Don’t let your pet chase wildlife or investigate dead animals.
  • Bring your pet’s water with you when you are out at parks and natural areas, and keep them from ingesting water in ditches or other standing water.
  • Inspect your pet after they come in from the outdoors, looking for ticks and other parasites.
  • Cut down tall grasses, weeds, and other areas where rodents and other wildlife hang out (they carry vector-borne diseases as well as zoonoses).

If you would like more information on protecting your family from zoonotic diseases, or to schedule an appointment for your pet, please contact us.