Zoonotic Diseases

A zoonosis (zoh-oh-NOH-sis) is an infectious disease that can be transmitted from animals to humans. Some zoonotic diseases are bacteria or viruses and may be transmitted through contact with the animal, while others might be spread through contact with urine, feces or respiratory secretions. Additional methods of transmission of these diseases include scratches or bites by a pet, or by insects. Zoonoses can be passed from wild animals to people, or from wild animals to pets to people. Regular veterinary visits, preventive vaccinations and medications, and good hygiene can help prevent them.

Below are details about some common zoonoses, their symptoms, how they are transmitted and how to prevent them. Check with your veterinarian to insure you and your pet are protected against zoonotic diseases.

Giardia

Microscopic parasites that live in the small intestines of dogs and cats.

Clinical Signs:

  • Dogs & cats: Chronic diarrhea, weight loss. Younger dogs and cats (less than 3 years old) are most susceptible, especially if less than 12 months of age.
  • People: possible nausea, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss

How it’s transmitted:

  • Ingestion of the cyst stage of this parasite, which can occur when animal or human comes in contact with infected animals, feces containing Giardia cyst or contaminated food and water

Diagnosis:

  • Microscopic examination of fresh stool specimens by your veterinarian is the usual method of finding Giardia. Several microscopic examinations of feces over several days may be required to establish a diagnosis.

People most at risk:

  • Children in day-care centers
  • People who have underlying disease or compromised immune systems
  • People who have traveled to developing countries
  • Hikers who drink untreated water from streams and lakes

Treatment:

  • All animals with giardiasis should be treated to reduce chance for human exposure
  • Several drugs exist for killing Giardia in your pet’s digestive tract. Animals with severe diarrhea may require antidiarrheal medications as well.
  • Your veterinarian may suggest a dietary change based on your pet’s age and body condition, the degree of diarrhea and weight loss

Prevention:

  • Control measures should be used to prevent reinfection and lessen the chances for human infection.
  • Stools should be removed from kennels, yards and litter pans on a daily basis.
  • Check with your veterinarian to determine how to disinfect areas to effectively reduce Giardia cyst contamination.

Roundworms

Roundworms are white parasites one inch or more in length that live in the small intestines of dogs and cats. They are usually tightly coiled when passed, and resemble spaghetti.

Clinical Signs:

  • Signs include an unhealthy appearance, diarrhea, vomiting, failure to gain weight, poor hair coat and a distended abdomen (pot-belly). These signs are most severe in puppies and kittens and can be life-threatening. Puppies 4-6months of age with heavy infections may expel a large mass of worms in vomit.
  • Adult dogs & cats: Vomiting
  • People: Pneumonia-like symptoms, skin staining from damage to internal organs, irritated retinas from damage to eyes

How they are transmitted

  • Cats: may ingest eggs when grooming themselves after spending time in the yard or near contaminated litter pans.
  • Dogs and cats: may acquire roundworms by eating insects and animals that have been infected with larvae (immature roundworms). Such animals include rodents, rabbits, birds and some farm animals.
  • Puppies & kittens: The most significant route of roundworm may be from mother to offspring. In dogs, roundworm larvae cross the placenta and infect puppies before they are born. Roundworm larvae in both dogs and cats can be transmitted to puppies and kittens through the mother’s milk.
  • People: People can also be infected with roundworm larvae. This infection is called visceral larval migrans More serious is ocular larval migrans, which occurs most commonly in children that have eaten dirt contaminated with roundwormeggs.

Diagnosis:

  • Most often eggs are seen on microscopic examination of pet’s stool.
  • Mature worms may be found in vomitus or stool samples.

People most at risk:

  • Children

Treatment:

  • Dewormers are extremely effective for treating roundworm infections.
  • Sometimes additional therapy (antibiotics, fluid therapy) is needed depending on severity of infection.
  • Your veterinarian may suggest a dietary change based on your pet’s age and body condition, the degree of illness caused by roundworms and the presence or absence of disease in other organs and body systems. Debilitated patients may benefit from foods with increased levels of protein and energy during the recovery process.

Prevention:

  • Control of roundworms should be aimed at reducing the number of infective eggs in the pet’s environment.
  • Dogs and cats with roundworms should be dewormed as needed. Deworm puppies & kittens every 2 weeks until they are old enough to receive a monthly control product.
  • Feces should be removed daily from litter pans and exercise areas such as yards and kennels. Litter pans should be washed routinely and allowed to dry in direct sunlight
  • Because dogs and cats acquire roundworm infection by eating insects and other animals, scavenging and hunting behaviors should be controlled where possible.
  • Regular microscopic examination of your pet’s stool is the best method to ensure that your pet has not been reinfected with roundworms. Your veterinarian will tell you how often your pet’s stool should be examined.
  • Keep dogs on leashes or in fenced yards and keep cats indoors to help prevent ingestion of infected animals or feces.
  • Monitor children playing in sandboxes and parks.

TapewormsTapeworms_Taenia_illustration_2978

Tapeworms are made of joined segments and often have a flattened, ribbonlike appearance. There are 2 different species of tapeworms. Dipylidium caninum tapeworms are transmitted to a dog or cat when they eat infected fleas. Taenia tapeworms can occur when a pet eats an infected rodent or infected meat from livestock.

Clinical Signs:

  • Dogs & cats: Anal discomfort and itching, which often results in pets dragging their hind end across the floor.
  • People: Most are without symptoms, but can have mild abdominal distress, weight loss, poor body condition and anal itching are possible.

How they are transmitted:

  • Dogs & cats: Ingesting infected fleas or ingesting tissue of infected animals wild rabbits, rodents or raw meat from sheep goats, cattle and pigs
  • People: Ingesting infected fleas or undercooked meat containing larvae

Diagnosis:

  • Evidence of tapeworm segments in pet’s stool or on the coat near the pet’s anus
  • Dried tapeworm segments may be found on the pet’s coat, in the pet’s bedding, on furniture or carpets/floors
  • Flea infestation indicates tapeworms may be present

People most at risk:

  • Usually children

Treatment:

  • Dewormers designed to eliminate tapeworms are extremely effective
  • After your pet has been treated for a tapeworm infection, your veterinarian may suggest a dietary change based on your pet’s age and body condition.

Prevention:

  • Insure all family pets receive strict monthly flea control, to help prevent reinfection
  • Rabbits, rodents and raw meat from livestock shouldn’t be fed to dogs and cats