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Zoonotic Disease – Illnesses You Can Get From Your Pet!

by Particular Paws on April 06, 2017

Zoonotic is a term not many of us know, but it’s a word you are going to want to know as it could save you from developing a very nasty illness! Especially if you’re a pet owner. Zoonotic disease is an infection, or a disease, that is spread from an animal to people. There are hundreds of zoonotic diseases out there that are known to several different animal species and we usually catch them through products we like to eat, such as; milk, eggs and meat. Although it is rare, it’s possible for your dog or cat to spread a zoonotic disease to you by doing things for your pet that you do EVERY single day! 

I’m sure you’re now wondering what types of diseases can come from your cat or dog. Well, don’t worry, that’s what we are here for.

Zoonotic diseases from dogs:
• Hydatid disease
• Pasteurellosis
• Rabies
• Ringworm
• Toxocariasis
• Zoonotic diphtheria

Zoonotic diseases from cats:
• Cat scratch fever
• Pasteurellosis
• Q fever
• Rabies
• Ringworm
• Toxocariasis
• Toxoplasmosis
• Whipworm Infection
There are multiple diseases, which means there are multiple ways in which you can contract a zoonotic disease. So, let’s break it down…

Zoonotic Canine Diseases:

Hydatid Disease:

What is it? Hydatid Disease is a parasite infection caused by a tapeworm crawling around and inside your dog’s intestines. Tapeworms are super long, flat and segmented worms, which is why they are called the tape-worm. Tapeworms bite the inside of your dog’s intestine and eat everything in sight, causing a great deal of tummy pain for your pup. Like an earthworm, this tape-like parasite will break off and pet owners can see little segments of the worm in the dog’s feces. Although the rice-looking worm segments can be seen, it is the microscopic eggs that pet owners should watch out for. Humans can become infected with Hydatid Disease after making contact with your pet’s contaminated feces and then touching your face, accidentally ingesting the tapeworm eggs.

What are the symptoms?
• Jaundice (yellowing of the skin, a sign of liver failure)
• Coughing Blood
• Weakness
• Anemia (low red blood cell count)
• Swollen abdomen
• Unexplained weight loss
• Diarrhea
• Upset stomach

How can you prevent/treat this?
• Regular Vet Check-ups for your dog.
• Wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm water.
• Avoid contact with dog feces by wearing gloves, using a plastic bag or buying a poop-scoop shovel.
• Don’t allow your dog to eat poop, dead animals or outsources water (puddles, rivers, ponds, etc) as tapeworms are found in the environment.


 What is it? Pasteurellosis is caused by an infection of a bacteria known as Pasteurella multocida, which you can get if your dog or cat bites or scratches you.

 What are the symptoms?
• Swelling
• Warmth to the skin
• Redness
• Tenderness
• Sometimes there will be discharge of pus.

 How can you prevent/treat this?
• It’s important to clean the scratch or bite thoroughly and immediately. Use soap, water and a hydrogen peroxide solution.
• If you develop the symptoms previously mentioned, you should seek medical attention immediately!
• IMPORTANT!! – Cats have very long teeth and if an infected cat bites you, piercing the skin, go to the doctor as soon as possible! The infection can easily enter your blood stream and make you very ill.


 What is it? Rabies is a serious, life-threatening disease to humans and all animals. Rabies is often fatal to humans, which is why prevention and safety measures are crucial! “According to the World Health Organization, up to 59,000 people worldwide die from rabies every year.” Rabies is a virus transmitted through the bite, scratch or saliva of your dog, cat, and a number of other mammals. This virus targets the central nervous system making the affected go a bit insane.

 What are the symptoms?

Early Symptoms:
• Headaches
• Fever
• General weakness or discomfort

Progressive Symptoms:
• Insomnia
• Confusion
• Hallucinations
• Difficulty swallowing
• Excessive salivation
• Aggression
• Death

 How can you prevent/treat this?
• Keep rabies vaccinations up to date for your pet.
• Keep a close eye on your pets if they roam outside.
• Report any stray animals to animal control, as they might not be vaccinated.
• Avoid contact with any pet or wild animal that appears abnormal. Nocturnal animals (raccoons, skunks, possums) that appear in the daytime, allow you to approach them or stagger when they walk, are red flag symptoms of rabies.


 What is it? Ringworm is a highly contagious, fungal infection spread by touching an infected animal. Despite the name, Ringworm is not caused by a worm at all. It is named after the ring-like rash pattern the infection causes on the skin’s surface.

 What are the symptoms?
• Itchy skin
• Red skin
• Raised patches on your skin
• Patches may blister, ooze, or resemble a ring.

How can you prevent/treat this?
• Always wash your hands after petting any animal.
• Clean pet’s living areas thoroughly, at least once a week.
• Ringworm is a fungus, so avoid warm and moist areas to house your pet, as fungus thrives in these conditions.
• Luckily, Ringworm is very treatable. If you contract ringworm, make a visit to your doctor. He/she will prescribe a topical anti-fungal cream that effectively treats Ringworm. 
• To avoid spreading the infection to other pets or people, isolate yourself and your pet from others.


 What is it? Toxocariasis is an infection caused by parasitic roundworms found in the intestine of dogs or cats. Outside the host, these worms look like long strings of cooked spaghetti that eat all the digested food your pet eats, before he can absorb the nutrients. The eggs of the roundworm are passed in the feces of pets, where they can easily be picked up by other animals or people.

 What are the symptoms?
• Coughing
• Fever
• Headache
• Fatigue
• Rash
• Some people show no signs of an infection at all.

 How can you prevent/treat this?
• Make sure to pick up your pet feces as they may contain this infection, but keep your hands protected with gloves.
• Wash your hands after gardening, playing in the sand or any other activity that involves placing your hands in the soil.
• Keep sandboxes covered as this is a place cats love to use as their own king-sized litter box. Sandboxes out the #1 source of roundworm infections in children, as toddlers like to play in and eat sand.
• Most adults have special cells (antibodies) that fight infections of roundworms, therefore, the infection will often resolve itself.

Zoonotic diphtheria:

 What is it? Zoonotic diphtheria is a bacterial infection the targets the respiratory system (nose, throat and lungs) and the skin. Diphtheria was once a great epidemic, causing thousands of deaths in the 5th century and more recently, in France from the 90’s to early 2000’s. Diphtheria is easily spread through breathing, as the bacteria is present on the moist droplets in the air we exhale.

 What are the symptoms?
• Fever
• Sore throat
• Thickening of the skin inside the nose and throat
• Neck swelling
• Skin sores

Severe symptoms:
• Heart enlargement
• Nerve swellings

 How can you prevent/treat this?
• Get vaccinated
• Minimize the number of pets in your home
• Don’t share your drink with a pet
• Keep your home sanitary

Cat scratch fever:

 What is it? Cat scratch fever is a bacterial infection that is, you guessed it! …caused by a cat scratching or biting you. The bacteria, Bartonella henselae, is the most common bacteria strain in the world and is also possible for you to get infected if the feline’s saliva gets into an open wound on your body.

 What are the symptoms?
• Blistering or a bump near the bite or scratch on your body
• Fatigue
• Headaches
• Swollen lymph nodes

 How can you prevent/treat this?
• Unless you have a weak immune system, usually this infection doesn’t require treatment.
• Always wash your hands after playing with your cat.
• Although it was never proved, experts suspect fleas are to blame for infecting cats with Cat Scratch Fever. That being said, decreasing the number of fleas in your home could also reduce the risk of contracting the illness.

Q Fever:

 What is it? Q Fever is a worldwide bacterial infection, Coxiella burnetii, which commonly affects farm animals but cats can also become infected. The Coxiella bacteria is shed through the urine, feces, birth tissues and milk of infected animals, but can also become airborne in the circulating dust. Therefore, it’s possible for people to get infected just by breathing in dust that has been contaminated. Due to the fact that farm animals are commonly infected, felines and humans that live on farms or rural areas are at a higher risk for contraction.

 What are the symptoms?
• Fatigue
• Headaches
• Chest pain
• Fever
• Chills
• Sweats
• Muscle pain
• Weight loss

 How can you prevent/treat this?
• Most cases don’t require treatment, but antibiotic doxycycline are prescribed to those that do.
• Don’t consume non-pasteurized milk.
• Avoid direct contact with birthing tissues and farm waste material.
• Discourage your cat from consuming non-pasteurized milk.


Zoonotic DiseaseWhat is it? Toxoplasmosis is a parasitic infection caused by the world’s most common parasite; Toxoplasma gondii. The gondii parasite lives in the environment, but searches for its ultimate host, the feline. Although a cat may not be affected by this infection of parasite, Toxoplasmosis is a very serious condition for pregnant women to contract. The gondii parasite targets the unborn fetus inside the womb, resulting in stillbirth or miscarriage. Women who own cats can become infected with Toxoplasmosis by cleaning the litter box, gardening, or coming in contact with feline feces.

 What are the symptoms?

General Public:
• Not all people will develop symptoms.
• muscle aches, tender lymph nodes, eye problems, headaches, fever, and fatigue.

Pregnant Women:
• Still birth
• Miscarriage

Infected Newborns:
• Seizures
• Enlarged spleen and liver
• Jaundice (yellowing of the skin)
• Severe eye infections

 How can you prevent/treat this?
• Pregnant women should wear gloves, in addition to, a mask to cover your mouth and nose, while cleaning the litter box.
• Wear gloves if you’re gardening or working in the dirt.
• Wash your hands thoroughly after being outside or cleaning your cats litter box.

Whipworm Infection:

 What is it? A Whipworm is a type of parasite that looks just as the name implies, like a whip. These whip-like worms burrow their tails to the inside of a cat or dog’s intestine, leaving their mouths free to eat. To a pet, whipworms cause a great deal of bowel inflammation and malnourishment, as the worms take over the body. Humans can easily develop the same type of symptoms after becoming infected by the parasitic worms. Accidently consuming contaminated water or dirt containing whipworm parasites is the common routine of human infection.

 What are the symptoms?
• Abdominal pain
• Vomiting
• Headaches
• Bloody diarrhea
• Unexpected weight loss

 How can you prevent/treat this?
• Most common treatment is an anti-parasitic medication.
• Wash your hands after being outside or gardening, and shower after swimming in a natural body of still water (lakes, ponds)
• Avoid contact with dirt that contains contaminated fecal matter, such as fertilizers.
• Wash all fruits and vegetables before you eat them.

Zoonotic diseases are scary, but you don’t have to be because you have read this article! You know that Zoonotic diseases are things you can get from your cat or dog that will make you sick such as; viruses, bacteria, fungus and parasites. You know that you can prevent each and every zoonotic disease by practicing sanitation, washing your hands and visiting your veterinarian routinely. Children and pregnant women are at high risk for developing a severe infection of pet-borne illness, so doctors scare people into getting rid of their precious pet. Don’t let this happen to you! Share your new found knowledge with family and friends, so they too can learn that zoonotic diseases don’t have to be scary. Don’t fret, Prevent!

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