The next time you exchange kisses with your pet, keep in mind that they can pass along certain diseases. A zoonotic disease is one that can be transmitted between people and animals, and our team at Animal Clinic of Council Bluffs provides information about zoonotic diseases, and explains how you can safeguard your pet and your family.

#1: You can catch rabies from your pet

Rabies is a viral disease that targets the nervous system. Pet owners need to know the following Information about rabies:

  • Rabies is transmitted through a bite wound — Typically, rabies is transmitted through an infected animal’s bite. All mammals are susceptible to rabies, but foxes, skunks, raccoons, and bats most commonly spread rabies in the United States.
  • Rabies is fatal — Signs in pets include aggression, excessive drooling, and biting imaginary objects. Signs in humans include fever, lethargy, confusion, and difficulty swallowing. Once signs manifest, the disease is almost always fatal.  
  • Rabies can’t be easily diagnosed — Diagnosis requires examining an animal’s brain tissue post mortem. 
  • No treatment for rabies exists — Humans can receive postexposure prophylaxis to help prevent signs from occurring, but no treatment is available for pets or humans once signs manifest.
  • Rabies is preventable — Rabies vaccines are extremely effective at disease prevention, so ensure your pet is kept up to date to guarantee your family and your pet are protected.

#2: You can catch toxoplasmosis from your pet

Toxoplasmosis is a parasitic infection caused by the single-celled organism Toxoplasma gondii. Pet owners need to know the following Information about toxoplasmosis:

  • Cats are the definitive host for T. gondii — The parasite can infect most warm-blooded animals, but T. gondii needs a cat to complete their life cycle. Cats are infected by ingesting infected prey, and they pass oocysts in the millions in their feces. Most infected cats show no illness signs.
  • Other pets and humans are intermediate hosts — Other pets and humans are infected when they ingest oocysts in the environment. The most common signs are fever, decreased appetite, and lethargy, but other signs can occur depending on the parasite’s location in the body. In severe cases, the eyes and the central nervous system can become significantly inflamed.
  • Pregnant women and immunocompromised people are most at risk — Most healthy people’s immune system can fight off the infection, but if a pregnant woman is infected, the parasite can infect the fetus, causing a miscarriage or serious birth defects. Immunocompromised people can also become severely ill.
  • Toxoplasmosis can be prevented — Don’t allow your cat to ingest small animals or birds. In addition, clean your cat’s litter box daily, and wash your hands thoroughly after handling the litter.

#3: You can catch leptospirosis from your pet

Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection caused by organisms in the Leptospira genus. Pet owners need to know the following Information about leptospirosis:

  • Water loving dogs are at higher risk — Transmission most commonly occurs from drinking or swimming in urine-contaminated water, so dogs frequently exposed to natural water sources, such as rivers, lakes, and streams, are at higher risk.
  • Leptospirosis signs can vary — Some infected pets exhibit no signs, while others experience severe illness. Possible signs include fever, muscle tenderness, increased thirst and urination, diarrhea, lethargy, jaundice, and eye inflammation. Infected pets may also develop bleeding disorders. In humans, symptoms typically include fever, headache, muscle aches, diarrhea, jaundice, and a rash. In severe cases, humans may experience kidney or liver failure or meningitis.
  • Leptospirosis can be prevented — A leptospirosis vaccination is available for dogs, and our veterinary professionals can help you determine if the protection could benefit your dog. Leptospirosis infection can also be prevented by discouraging your pet from swimming in or drinking from natural water sources, and ensuring they don’t ingest carcasses.

#4: You can catch cat scratch fever from your pet

Cat scratch fever is a bacterial infection caused by Bartonella henselae. Pet owners need to know the following Information about cat scratch fever:

  • Cats are usually infected by parasites — Most cats transmit the bacteria from infected fleas and ticks. Typically, infected cats show no signs, but in severe cases, the infection may attack the cat’s heart, kidneys, or eyes. 
  • Immunocompromised people are at higher risk — Pregnant women and people suffering from cancer, diabetes, HIV or AIDS, or those with a transplanted organ are at higher risk. Transmission to humans typically occurs when a cat bites, scratches, or licks an open wound. Signs in humans include blisters at the bite or scratch site, swollen lymph nodes, fatigue, headaches, fever, joint pain, and rash. In severe cases, the infection can attack the brain, eyes, and bones, and cause a significant inflammatory response.
  • Cat scratch fever can be prevented  — Year-round flea prevention medication can prevent an infected flea from infecting your cat. Other disease prevention steps include avoiding rough play with your cat, and thoroughly cleaning any bite or scratch wounds. 

Catching a disease from your pet is rare, and simple precautions can help ensure your pet won’t make you sick. If your pet is due for a rabies vaccine, or you are interested in vaccinating your dog against leptospirosis, contact our team at Animal Clinic of Council Bluffs, so we can ensure your pet and your family are protected.