10 Diseases You Can Catch From Your Pets
Keep Your Pets Healthy!
As a responsible pet owner, you must do your best to love and care for your animals. Taking them to the vet for annual check ups and preventative services is a must!
Please Read This First!
A disclaimer by the author:
This lens was created as the first step towards awareness for responsible pet owners. It only gives a general overview of ten different diseases that pets can suffer from.
It is not intended as a medical guide!
Please do not try to self-diagnose your pet! This can take away precious time that might save your pet if they are indeed seriously ill! While information on the internet might be able to give you some ideas, only a licensed veterinarian can give you a correct diagnosis!
If you suspect your pet is ill, please take them to a reputable veterinarian and/or pet hospital immediately!!
I am not a doctor nor a veterinarian. Please do not use the information below to self-diagnose your pets!
What is Cat Scratch Disease (CSD)?
First discovered in 1889 by Henri Parinaud, this usually benign disease is caused by the bacterium Bartonella henselae. It is also known as "Cat Scratch Fever".
In 1950, Dr. Robert DebrÃ© discovered cats to be the natural reservoir for the bacterium, hence the name "Cat Scratch Disease". CSD is commonly found in children 1-2 weeks following a cat scratch or bite; the bacteria is more likely to be found in the blood stream of kittens rather then adult cats. About 40% of cats carry Bartonella henselae at some time in their lives but you cannot tell a cat as a carrier from an uninfected cat.
Symptoms of CSD include swollen Lymph nodes (especially those around the head, neck, and upper limbs.) A human with CSD may experience fever, headache, fatigue, and a loss of appetite.
To avoid any possible CSD infections, don't "play rough" with kittens and cats, as they are more like to scratch or bite. If you do receive a a scratch or a bite, immediately wash them thoroughly with running water and soap. Do not allow kitty to to lick any open wound you may have.
What are Hookworms?
A hookworm is a parasite that has "hooks" inside its mouth for attaching to its host. Puppies and kittens are more likely to be infected with hookworms then adult pets, which makes it especially important for you, as a responsible pet owner, to take your new pet to a veterinarian and have Kitty or Fido "dewormed", a process using antibiotics that kills the parasites.
People can become infected with hookworms through contact with animal feces. You may say how is that possible? An example is a small child playing in the dirt where a pet has gone to the bathroom. Hookworm eggs and/or larvae might be left behind as a result and a small child might accidentally come in contact with them.
Infection by hookworms can appear in several ways for a human. If you are infected by the hookworm larvae, it can travel through the body in what is known as "larva migrans". Hookworm larvae can also cause a painful and itchy skin infection as the larvae moves through your skin. How unpleasant!
If you should accidentally ingest animal hookworm eggs, the larvae that hatch out of the eggs can reach the intestine and cause bleeding, (swelling), and abdominal pain.
This is why it is so important to have your pets dewormed!
What is Leptospirosis?
Leptospirosis is a disease is caused by spiral-shaped bacteria called leptospires. Leptospirosis is not uncommon in the United States but infections can happen. Dogs are more likely to become infected; while there have been cases of cats becoming infected, it is rare.
The disease is transmitted via urine and other body fluids, but not in saliva. Humans and animals can become infected through contact with contaminated urine (or other body fluids), water, or soil.
Infection in humans resembles a mild flu and rarely has serious complications. Pets can received a vaccination against Leptospirosis but because there are so many types of leptospires it is not 100% effective.
Rodents such as mice and rats also carry Leptospirosis so make sure you keep any pest problems under control to minimize risk of infection to your pets. Also keep your pets away from wildlife critters, as they may be infected.
What is Psittacosis?
Psittacosis (pronounced "sit-ta-co-sis") is caused by Chlamydia psittaci, a type of bacteria. All birds are susceptible to Psittacosis; pet birds such as parrots, parakeets, macaws, and cockatiels and poultry (turkeys and ducks) are most frequently involved in transmitting the disease to humans.
It's is difficult to tell whether a pet bird is infected. A bird sick with Psittacosis can show one or several of the following symptoms; eye discharge or swelling, labored breathing, shivering, weight loss, lethargy, "fluffed up" appearance, diarrhea, or weakness.
The disease can be transmitted via droppings from an infected bird that become aerosolized (dispersed in the air as very fine droplets or dust particles.) Inhaling these aerosolized particles causes the infection.
It is important to not overcrowd birds into a cage and to arrange cages so materials such as urine, feces, food and feathers can not spread between them. Feeding your bird properly and making sure its cage is clean is very important!
What is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is a bacterial disease caused by Borrelia burgdorferi. This bacteria is spread via ticks. When an infected tick hitches a ride on a dog or horse, then jumps to a human and bites them, the human can become infected with Lyme Disease.
Within 1 to 2 weeks of being infected, people may develop a rash that looks like a bull's eye and run a fever. They may also have headaches and muscle or joint pain. Other people have a fever and other flu-like symptoms without a rash. Some people who are infected do not show any early symptoms of the disease.
After several days or weeks, the bacteria may spread throughout the body of an infected person. These people can get symptoms such as rashes in other parts of the body, pain that seems to move from joint to joint, and signs of inflammation of the heart or nerves. If the disease is not treated, a few patients can get additional symptoms, such as swelling and pain in major joints or mental changes, months after getting infected.
To protect yourself from risk of exposure to Lyme disease, you should avoid areas that are likely to be infested with ticks, particularly during the spring and summer, whenever possible. If you are going into an area where ticks are, wear light colored clothes so you can easily spot and remove a tick before it becomes attached.
Since ticks are close to the ground, tuck your pants into your socks and wear high rubber boots to minimize exposure. It is also a good idea to wear long sleeved shirts.
If the weather is hot, applying insect repellent containing DEET and Permethrin should help reduce risk of tick attachment. Follow the directions and apply accordingly.
If you have been in an area where ticks are, check for and remove them promptly. Transmission of Borrelia burgdorferi is unlikely to occur before 36 hours after the tick attaches itself, so do not waste time checking for ticks. Any embedded ticks should be removed by using fine-tipped tweezers and the area cleansed with an antiseptic.
Reduce the number of ticks around your home and yard by removing leaf litter and bush/wood piles around your home and yard. This is a good idea to keep ticks from getting on your pets!
What is Salmonellosis?
Salmonellosis (pronounced sal-mohn-el-OH-sis) is a disease caused by the bacterium Salmonella. Many kinds of animals can pass salmonellosis to people. Usually, people get salmonellosis by eating contaminated food, such as chicken or eggs. Pet Dogs, cats, birds, horses, and farm animals can pass Salmonella in their feces. When people come into contact with the contaminated feces and do not properly wash their hands, they run the risk of becoming ill.
Lizards, snakes, and turtles, baby chicks, and ducklings are especially likely to pass salmonellosis to people. This is why it is so important to make sure young children wash and disinfect their hands after petting animals at a petting zoo!
Many different kinds of Salmonella can make people sick. Most people have diarrhea, fever, and stomach pain that start 1 to 3 days after they get infected. These symptoms usually go away after 1 week. Sometimes, people have to see a doctor or go to the hospital because the diarrhea is severe or the infection has affected other organs.
Protecting yourself from the risk of Salmonella includes washing your hands with soap and running water if you've come in contact with animal feces. It is also important to wash and disinfect your hands after touching reptiles or any objects and surfaces that a reptile has also touched. Be extra cautious when visiting farms, petting farm animals, or visiting a petting zoo.
What is Toxocariasis?
Toxocariasis (TOX-o-kah-RYE-us-sis) is a zoonotic (zoonotic means "animal to human") infection caused by the parasitic roundworms commonly found in the intestine of dogs and cats. Puppies usually contract from the mother before birth or from her milk. The larvae mature rapidly in the puppy’s intestines; when the pup is 3 or 4 weeks old, they begin to produce large numbers of eggs that contaminate the environment through the animal’s feces. The eggs soon develop into infective larvae.
Infection is possible through contact with infected feces. This can happen if you have to clean up puppy's mess or children playing in/eating contaminated dirt where puppy has gone to the bathroom.
To prevent the spread of Toxocariasis, please have your pets, especially when they are young, treated regularly to prevent roundworms. This a process called "deworming" and is done via medications you give to your pet.
Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after playing with your pets and outdoor activities. Teach children to always wash their hands after playing with dogs and cats and after playing outdoors. Also teach children that it is dangerous to eat dirt or soil and they should not touch their hands to their mouths if they are dirty.
Do not allow children to play in areas that are soiled with pet or other animal feces. Clean your pet’s living area at least once a week. Feces should be either buried or bagged and disposed of in the trash.
What is Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis Virus (LCMV)?
Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis Virus (LCMV) is carried by rodents. This includes hamsters, pet mice, guinea pigs as well as wild rodents such as field mice, rats and other pests. Pet rodents can become infected with LCMV after being in contact with wild rodents at a breeding facility, pet store, or home. If you intend to keep these animals as pets, be sure to get them from reputable stores or breeders!
Humans can develop LCMV infections from exposure to rodent urine, droppings, saliva, or nesting material of infected rodents. Exposure to the virus can also occur when these materials are directly introduced into broken skin or into the nose, eyes, or mouth or by a bite from an infected animal. The risk of infection from a pet is very rare!
To reduce the risk of exposure, and to practice general safety, remember to wash your hands with soap and water after handling pet rodents. Keep their cages clean and free of soiled bedding. When you clean their cage, do it in a well-ventilated area or outside. And although they are cute and fluffy, do not kiss pet rodents or hold them close to your face!
What is Toxoplasmosis?
Toxoplasmosis (pronounced "TOX-so-plaz-MO-sis") is a disease caused by a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii. Toxoplasmosis is passed to people from contaminated cat feces. This can happen when you clean kitty's litter box or touching dirt where cats might have been, like soil in the garden or planting area of your yard.
Toxoplasmosis can also be passed to humans when they eat meat that is not cooked completely, especially pork, lamb, or deer meat.
Most people who get Toxoplasmosis do not get sick, but some people will get swollen glands, muscle aches and feel as though they have the flu. Women who are pregnant or are thinking about becoming pregnant should be especially careful about Toxoplasmosis! This disease can infect the fetus and cause birth defects or abortion. Infants, children younger than 5 years old, organ transplant patients, people with HIV/AIDS and people getting treatment for cancer are more susceptible to Toxoplasmosis infections.
To reduce your risk of Toxoplasmosis, make sure to wash your hands thoroughly with running water and soap after contact with cat feces (especially after you clean the litter box) and after gardening.
If you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant or have a weakened immune system, do not clean a cat's litter box! Ask your partner or a relative to do it for you. It is also wise to keep your cat indoors. Make sure that kitty's litter box is cleaned daily and do not feed undercooked meat to your cat.
What is Brucellosis?
There are many types of Brucellosis in animals, strains of which mostly affect domesticated livestock and wild bison and elk. The type that affects dogs is called Brucella canis.
Brucella canis is rarely transmitted to humans, because pet owners rarely come in contact with their dog's blood or reproductive fluids. But if it is passed to humans it can cause a fever that may progress the endocarditis (a very serious infection of the heart.)