Your furry friend may be the culprit of your inexplicable illness. Most of us consider our pets to be members of our family, but even domestic animals can carry diseases that affect their unsuspecting human caretakers. Read on to learn about some of the most common diseases you can get from dogs, cats, birds and reptiles. We’ve also included some preventative measures you can take to keep you and your pet healthy and happy.
Rabies is one of the most severe diseases that you can catch from an animal, and most people’s household pets won’t ever contract the illness. Rabies is spread by a bite from a cat or dog, but it’s mostly contracted and spread by wild animals.
If your pet spends a lot of time outdoors, make sure you keep an eye on them and ensure they’re properly contained and not exposed to any creatures that could spread the disease.
Common symptoms of rabies in humans are:
There is no known cure for rabies, but if you’ve been bitten, seek immediate medical care. You will be administered a series of four rabies shots over a 14-day period that can prevent the disease from manifesting. The first shot you’ll be given is the rabies immune globulin injection. This shot is given as close to the infection site as possible.
Cats and dogs that have contracted rabies cannot be cured and are euthanized. You can, however, keep your small pets, cats and dogs updated regularly on rabies vaccinations to prevent them from contracting the virus.
How to Prevent Rabies:
Keep your pet up-to-date on their vaccinations. Report any strays or loose wild animals to animal control, and don’t approach them yourself.
Toxoplasmosis is an organism that can cause flu-like symptoms in infected humans. If you’ve ever heard that pregnant women should steer clear of a cat, toxoplasmosis is the reason.
While it’s safe to own a kitty and have a baby on the way, anyone who is or could be pregnant should avoid changing the litter box, since toxoplasmosis can cause severe birth defects and or even miscarriage.
Doctors prescribe a variety of antibiotics and acid antagonists to treat active toxoplasmosis. For pregnant women, the course of treatment will be determined by the length of the pregnancy and testing results.
How to Prevent Toxoplasmosis:
- Avoid contact with litter boxes when pregnant
- Make sure your cat’s litter box is cleaned once a day
- Don’t consume or feed your cat(s) raw or undercooked meats
- Keep cat(s) indoors to decrease exposure and risk of infection
- Thoroughly wash hands after any contact with cat litter
Cat Scratch Disease
Cat scratch disease actually starts with fleas. When the insects hop from one cat to another, felines become infected with the bacterial disease known as bartonellosis. Humans can catch it through scratches or bites.
Symptoms in humans are similar to those related to the flu; you should see a doctor any time you experience symptoms such as fever, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, as there are many diseases that could be the culprit.
How to Prevent Cat Scratch Disease:
- Use proper flea prevention with your pets such as medication and collars
- Avoid physical playtime that can lead to bites or scratches
- Immediately wash any bite marks or scratches with soap and warm water
- Take your cat to the vet if they develop fleas and thoroughly clean your home, particularly carpets and bedding
- Seek medical care for any irritated and infected cat bites or scratches
Antibiotics are the most common form of treatment.
There are several different types of fungal and parasitic illnesses you can get from your dog or cat.
Despite the name, ringworm is actually caused by a fungus, not a worm. Hair loss and a scaly appearance on the skin of cats and dogs can signify a ringworm infection.
In humans, children tend to contract ringworm the most. The fungal infection appears as red, peeling and/or scale-like rashes that expand and form a telltale ring on the skin.
Doctors might prescribe an oral solution and/or anti-fungal cream to treat a ringworm infection.
How to Prevent Ringworm:
- Check your pets routinely for any rashes or hair loss
- Wash your pets regularly
- Bathe dogs after a trip to the park
- Regularly clean pet bedding and grooming tools
- Frequently clean your house to remove dead skin cells and hair
Humans usually get tapeworms from their dogs. Dipylidium caninum is the most common type of canine tapeworm and is transmitted when a human ingests an infected flea. The same contamination occurs in cats.
Signs of tapeworms in dogs include itchiness around the anus, which results in lots of scooting across the floor, weight loss, increased appetite and a dry, dull coat.
Tapeworms of symptoms in humans can vary, but the most common signs are general weakness, nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea and eggs, larvae and actual tapeworms in the stool.
Tapeworms in dogs, cats and humans are typically treated with oral medications that are toxic to the tapeworms and kill them off. It’s important to seek medical attention and treatment as soon as possible; tapeworms rob our bodies of nutrients and can cause intestinal blockages that can be life-threatening.
How to Prevent Tapeworms:
- Talk to your vet about flea prevention
- Always clean up after your pet in public spaces
- Avoid lettings children play in parks and playgrounds that have noticeable animal feces
- Always wash your hands after playing with cats and dogs and being outdoors
Diseases You Can Get from Birds and Reptiles
There aren’t a lot of diseases you can catch from your parakeet, but domestic birds can still contract and contaminate humans. Reptiles can infect humans with a variety of diseases if owners don’t take proper precautions. Here are two common illnesses to watch out for:
Parrot Fever (Psittacosis)
Parrot fever is contracted by inhaling bacteria from bird secretions. Parakeets, parrots and poultry can spread the disease, though they may never actually show any signs of illness themselves.
In humans, symptoms of parrot fever include:
- Muscle aches
- Difficulty breathing
- Dry cough
How to Prevent Psittacosis:
- Only buy birds from reputable breeders
- Clean bird droppings regularly
- Avoid beak-to-mouth contact
- Wear gloves and wash hands after handling bird supplies
The most effective treatment for parrot fever is a course of antibiotics.
Reptiles like turtles, lizards and frogs carry a bacteria called Salmonella that can cause severe illness in humans. Most humans contract Salmonella poisoning after they handle a reptile or amphibian or its droppings and don’t thoroughly wash their hands.
Common symptoms of Salmonella illness include:
- Stomach cramps
- Bloody stools
- Muscle pains
A doctor may test a stool sample or run a blood test to check for the bacteria. Severe cases require hospitalization and an IV. Other patients may be prescribed anti-diarrheals and antibiotics to treat a salmonella infection.
If you feel that you or a member of your family has contracted one of these illnesses, contact your doctor or schedule an appointment with us today.