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Apr 07 2015

Zoonotic Diseases and our Pets

Chances are, if you’re reading this Blog, you love animals, and probably own one or two (or more). Most of us consider our pets to be part of the family. They eat with us, play with us, travel with us, and more often than not, sleep with us! But have you ever thought about the risk of acquiring an infectious disease from one of your pets?

Zoonotic Diseases, or zoonoses, are infectious diseases that can be spread naturally from animals to humans. They can be viral, bacterial, fungal, or parasitic in nature. Although many infectious human diseases originated in animals, only those infectious diseases that routinely involve transmission from animals to humans are considered zoonoses.

While you’re not going to get Distemper from your pet, nor can you contract Lyme Disease or Kennel Cough from playing with your dog . . . you can develop a number of diseases from Roundworms and Hookworms that your pet might carry (these intestinal parasites are particularly common in puppies and kittens), you can acquire Scabies (Sarcoptic Mange) from your dog, you can develop Ringworm (Dermatophytosis) from your cat, you can acquire Psittacosis (Chlamydia) from your parrot . . . and the list goes on!

Rabies is a major zoonotic disease with which most people are familiar. Rabies is a serious and fatal disease (which is the reason that almost all municipalities mandate Rabies Vaccination for dogs and cats), but another potentially serious disease, and one that we are becoming increasingly concerned about, is Leptospirosis. Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection, common in soil and water, which can cause significant liver and/or kidney disease in dogs, and it, too, can be transmitted to humans. More to follow on Leptospirosis in next week’s Blog!

But the good news is that the likelihood of contracting an infectious disease from your pet is really pretty small. And more good news . . . there are vaccinations available for the majority of major infectious diseases (including Rabies and Leptospirosis), there are preventative medications for intestinal parasites and external parasites, and there are safe and effective treatments for the majority of diseases your pet may come into contact with or develop! By providing good quality preventative health care and keeping vaccines current, you will greatly minimize any risks from zoonotic diseases to you, your family, and your friends . . . and you will help your pet live a long and happy life!

Bob Cohen, DVM | Medical/Surgical

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