A dog may be a man or woman’s best friend but they can also give you diseases that make can make you very sick. There are a few diseases that pets can get and give to humans. These are called zoonotic diseases. And it’s important for pet owners to know about these potential risks, so you can take precautions to make sure your household is protected. This article will review seven diseases that animals can transmit to humans and what you can do to prevent these pet to human transmissions.
Round worms are a parasite that most household pets will have at some point in life. The worms live in their intestines, and pets typically have them as puppies or kittens. These worms lay eggs that are then deposited in the soil when your pet defecates. People are infected with round worms through accidental ingestion. Preventing round worm infections includes deworming your pet at a young age and performing periodic stool checks during the year. Also many heartworm preventatives are very good dewormers. So monthly treatment for heartworms is important for avoiding round worms, as well.
Hookworms are another parasitic intestinal worm of dogs and cats that can infect humans. They can be found in the soil or sand where an infected dog has defecated. The larvae can migrate through skin and cause a painful skin rash in humans. Routine stool checks on your pet and good hygiene is the best way to avoid getting this parasite.
Giardia is the mostly commonly diagnosed parasitic disease for people in the US. It is also an intestinal parasite that dogs and cats can have and give to humans. Typically transmitted through contaminated water, it causes chronic diarrhea that can last from one week to several months. Giardia can also be more severe and cause a skin rash and joint swelling. This is a parasite we are finding more and more often in pets, especially in puppies and kittens. Again, regular hand washing, good hygiene, and routine fecal examinations of your pet can help reduce the spread.
Lyme disease, or Borrelia burgdorferi, is spread by ticks and can cause rash, headaches, and muscle pains. It can also move through the body and cause more wide spread problems in the joints and other organs. You’re more likely to get Lyme disease if you live or spend time in grassy and heavily wooded areas where ticks carrying the disease thrive.
If you’re treated with appropriate antibiotics in the early stages of the disease, you’re likely to recover completely. In later stages, response to treatment may be slower, but the majority of people with Lyme disease recover completely with appropriate treatment.
You should be especially vigilant after spending time in wooded or grassy areas. Deer ticks are often no bigger than the head of a pin, so you may not discover them unless you search carefully. It’s helpful to shower as soon as you come indoors. Showering and using a washcloth may be enough to remove any unattached ticks.
Be careful when removing an offending tick attached to your skin. Gently grasp the tick near its head or mouth with a tweezer. Don’t squeeze or crush the tick, but pull carefully and steadily. Once you’ve removed the entire tick, apply antiseptic to the bite area.
Ringworm is not really a worm at all, but rather a fungal infection that causes a circular-like lesion on the skin. Dogs and cats can have ringworm and can also be carriers that give it to you. Ringworm in people causes an itchy, flaky skin rash.
Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection that causes liver and kidney failure in pets, and can also infect humans. It is spread through the urine of infected animals and can live in water and soil for long periods of time. There is a vaccine for Leptospirosis, but it may not completely protect your pet. So be sure to talk with your veterinarian to determine if this vaccine is necessary.
Rabies is the most dangerous zoonotic disease that we have encountered so far. It is a virus that causes neurological problems and that can be transmitted by dogs, cats, and animals in the wild. If a human is infected and not treated, they rarely survive. The vaccine for rabies is very effective at preventing this disease, and keeping your pets vaccinated is vital. We vaccinate dogs and cats as a way to not only protect them from rabies, but to also keep humans safe from this deadly virus.
Of course, there are more zoonotic diseases than just the ones listed above. But the best way to protect yourself and your family is to be educated about them, use good hygiene, and have regular conversations with your veterinarian about how to keep your pets safe and disease-free.
Bottom Line: Pets are adorable and often make loving companions for adults and children. However, these pets can be vehicles for transmitting diseases to their human owners and their families. Have you animal checked by your vet on a regular basis is the best way to prevent these illnesses and diseases.