Zoonotic Disease

A zoonotic disease is a disease you can get from your pet or any animal. The very young, the very old, the immunocompromised and pregnant women are more at risk. This is a brief summary of the most common zoonotic diseases. You may also contact your human healthcare provider for more information.

Diseases you can get from animal feces:

Hookworms are common intestinal parasites of dogs and cats. Eggs are passed in the feces of dogs and cats, develop into larvae in the soil, then chew through the skin of their next host. Both humans and animals can be affected. Prevention includes multiple dewormings of all young animals, on-going parasite control in adults, yearly fecal exams and daily removal of feces from the yard.

Roundworms are common intestinal parasites of dogs and cats. They can be transmitted to people by accidentally getting feces in their mouth (small children most at risk). Prevention includes multiple dewormings of all young animals, on-going parasite control in adults, yearly fecal exams and timely removal of feces from the house/yard. Teach children good sanitary habits, i.e. wash hands after playing with pet or playing outside.

Tapeworms are common intestinal parasites of dogs and cats. Dogs and cats contract them from fleas and rodents.

Toxoplasmosis is a protozoan. Accidental ingestion of contaminated cat feces or from eating undercooked meat are sources of human infection. It can cause abortion or birth defects in humans. Pregnant women should not clean litter boxes. All people should wear gloves when gardening, handling uncooked meat, eat fully cooked meat, and thoroughly wash vegetables to prevent the disease.

Baylisascaris is the raccoon roundworm. People can be exposed to this parasite in raccoon feces. Prevention is not to feed wildlife and do not keep raccoons as pets. This disease usually manifests initially as unexplained neurological symptoms. This disease can be fatal in humans.

Diseases you can get from casual contact with animals:

Ringworm is a fungus. You can come into contact with it on an affected animal or directly from the soil. Prevention includes a timely diagnosis and treatment of affected pets and intensive household cleaning.

Sarcoptes is a mite. Contact with an affected animal may allow mites to crawl onto people or another pet. Minimal handling of affected pets until successfully treated is the prevention.

Diseases you can get from an animal bite or scratch:

Cat Scratch Disease is caused by bacteria. Kittens are more commonly involved. Prevent cat scratches and bites by discouraging aggressive play. Maintain flea control (which is how the organism is transmitted from cat to cat.) Cleanse all scratches or bites immediately. Contact your human healthcare provider if you are concerned about a cat bite/scratch wound.

Rabies is a virus. It is a transmitted by a bite or scratch from affected mammals or from inhalation of bat guano (feces) in caves. Vaccination of all companion animals, avoiding contact with wildlife, especially if showing abnormal behavior (e.g. if it seems overly friendly or a usually nocturnal animal is out during the day) are prevention strategies.

Disease you can get from urine or standing water:

Leptospirosis is a bacteria. This organism can be found in standing water, wetlands or urine from infected animals. Vaccination of at-risk dogs (hunting), controlling rodent populations, minimizing access to standing water and to wildlife are all prevention strategies. Use caution if handling urine from sick dogs.

How can I protect myself and my family?

Have an annual exam of your pet to discuss your pet's parasite control program.
Have an annual fecal and heartworm test done on your pet.
Give pets a monthly broad spectrum parasite medication prescribed by a veterinarian.
Use flea and tick products.
Feed pets a commercial pet food. Do not feed pets raw meat.
Remove pets’ feces in a timely manner.
Do not allow your pets to roam freely.
Wash hands thoroughly after contact with animals.