From Rabies to Salmonella: The Prevalence and Risks of Zoonotic Diseases
Reviewing a list of zoonotic diseases can bring about a paranoid, highly concerned state of mind. As with anything, though, control is regained when you know what’s out there and how you can take measures to reduce exposure.
At Androscoggin Animal Hospital, our veterinarians help you do just that through your pet’s routine wellness exams. By updating vaccinations, continuing monthly parasite preventives, and observing any changes, you’re protecting your pet’s health – and the health of your entire family.
A zoonosis is a disease that can be transmitted to humans from other species. Various zoonotic diseases pose significant risks to everybody (such as farmers, hunters, and gardeners), with pet owners taking extra precautions. For example:
- Your pet’s waste should never be handled with bare hands. Discard waste promptly, wearing gloves or using a pooper scooper. Wash out your cat’s litter box regularly.
- Wash your children’s hands after playing in public sandboxes, dirt, beaches, or other areas that animals frequent.
- Keep up your pet’s monthly parasite preventive. This will reduce the risk of internal and external parasites, as well as vector-borne illnesses.
- Update any vaccinations that protect against zoonotic diseases carried by wildlife.
Common Zoonotic Diseases
There are dozens of diseases that can spread from animals to humans, but the most common ones that affect pets and their people are:
- Rabies—Caused by a virus, rabies is usually spread through contact with the saliva of an infected animal. Rabies has the potential to affect any mammal, with skunks, raccoons, bats, and foxes topping the list of wild infected species. Your pet should receive a rabies vaccination, refrain from engaging with any aggressive animals, and remain on-leash while walking.
- Lyme disease—Without monthly parasite preventives, ticks can pass Lyme disease (among other illnesses) to you and your pet.
- Toxoplasmosis—Expectant mothers are commonly warned of changing their cat’s litter box, but this zoonotic disease can also be found in raw meat. Cats are also discouraged from hunting mice or rats.
- Leptospirosis—Contracted through exposure to an infected animal’s urine, contaminated water and soil should be strictly avoided. Depending on your pet’s lifestyle, we may recommend the Leptospirosis vaccination. Cattle, pigs, raccoons, and rodents (including those kept as pets) can carry this bacterium.
- Roundworms—Yearly screening and possible repeated deworming can protect your dog and family members from the eggs passed in a puppy’s stool.
- Salmonella—Pocket pets such as mice, rats, guinea pigs, gerbils, and rabbits, as well as lizards, reptiles (including turtles), and chickens can all carry Salmonella bacteria. Thorough hand washing should be strictly enforced to reduce risk.
- Lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV)—Passed from mice, hamsters, and guinea pigs, humans can become very sick with viral infection similar to the flu.