Tuesday, August 24, 2010

10 Diseases Pets to People

Zoonoses are defined as diseases that can spread from animals to people. Zoonoses can be caused by any number of different viruses, bacteria, parasites and fungi.

This abbreviated list of nasty zoonoses that can be passed to people from dogs or cats range from the mildly annoying to serious life threatening diseases. Fortunately, following the recommendations at the end of this article can prevent them.

1. Lyme Disease
Technically this is not considered a zoonotic disease because it is not spread directly from animals to people; however, I am putting it on the top of my list because I believe it represents the greatest health hazard in our geographic area.  It is transmitted by tick bites.  Our pets are directed involved because they can carry ticks into the home environment.

2. Tapeworm
This parasite can be transmitted from accidentally ingesting a flea from a dog or cat. Symptoms if infected with a flea tapeworm include stomachaches, diarrhea, and an itchy anal area.

3. Ringworm
This is often confused with other zoonoses because of the “worm” part of its name. Ringworm is a fungus that is fairly common in dogs and cats. It usually leaves people with a skin rash that's uncomfortable.  Its name is derived from the fact that it leaves a circular rash in most instances.

4. Roundworm
This is a parasite found in almost every puppy and kitten. They usually get it from their mothers before they're born or from drinking mother's milk. It is spread through the bowel movements and people can accidentally ingest them if they handle dirt containing roundworm eggs and forget to wash their hands before eating. Most people don’t get symptoms, but for those that do, they include stomach problems, vision problems, and seizures.

5. Hookworm
This is another parasite that, like roundworm, can be spread through animal feces.  It can also infect people through direct skin contact, like when walking in bare feet outside on contaminated dirt or on a beach where animals are permitted to defecate.  Symptoms range from no symptoms to blood loss, mental retardation in children, and other maladies such as skin rash.

6. Cat scratch disease
Bacteria found in the claws of some cats cause this, or though a cat bite. Usually there’s a mild infection where the injury occurs, but can lead to swollen lymph nodes, fever, headache, and a poor appetite.

7. Leptospira
This is a bacterium that can be found in the urine of dogs. People can develop many symptoms including fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, vomiting, and diarrhea. Some recover and then get sick again with severe kidney or liver disease, or infection of the brain. It can also lead to death.

8. Toxoplasma
This is caused by a parasite that can be found in contaminated kitty litter. It can also be found elsewhere,. Symptoms can include swollen glands and muscle aches as if like the "flu." Pregnant women should be especially careful because this disease can infect the developing baby and cause deformity or miscarriage.

9. Mange
A microscopic mite that is passed on to pets from undomesticated animals like fox causes sarcoptic mange.  It can infect humans although it tends to be self limiting after several weeks.  Symptoms include severe itchiness.

10. Rabies
It is caused by a bite from an infected animal, like a dog or cat. It is not common in dogs or cats because of successful rabies vaccination programs.

The good news is that you can easily prevent getting diseases from dogs and cats by following these recommendations;

1. Veterinary Care and Consultation:
Take your pet to a veterinarian at least once a year to get the vaccines, tests and medications needed to prevent disease. Have pets tested for intestinal paracites.  Annual worming is recommended.  Have your pet tested for tick born diseases. Use topical products that kill ticks and fleas on your pets.

2. Sanitation:
Pick up animal feces daily and dispose of it mindfully. Wear latex gloves when cleaning litter boxes (especially important for pregnant woman). Wash your hands frequently, especially before mealtime. Do not come in contact with skin disease of a pet.

3. Consult with your physician if you get a tick bite or a bite from your pet or any other animal. 

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