Zoonotic diseases are infectious diseases in animals that can be transmitted to humans.
Many zoonotic diseases are transmitted through direct or indirect contact with the affected animals. Some are transmitted by vectors such as fleas, ticks and mosquitoes. Others can be transmitted by food or water.
There are several zoonotic diseases that can affect pets and people. Some are more serious than others, but most can create a serious health threat if left unchecked.
We made a list of diseases that pets can transmit to humans:
Giardiasis is a disease caused by Giardia, a group of microscopic single-celled parasites that can infect various animals, including dogs, cats, rodents and humans. They form resistant cysts that allow them to survive in hostile environments until they can infect a new host.
The infection occurs when the Giardia parasite is ingested, often causing diarrhea, and sometimes vomiting. Animals are most commonly infected by walking on contaminated soil and licking it on their feet or drinking contaminated water. While it is possible for humans to contract giardiasis directly from an infected animal, it is relatively uncommon. Humans often catch giardiasis when drinking contaminated water.
Animals being treated for giardiasis should bathe regularly. Giardia cysts are eliminated in the feces and can remain in the animal’s body. Collect and dispose of feces correctly immediately. People who come into contact with infected animals should wash their hands thoroughly after that.
Fortunately, giardiasis can be treated with appropriate medications. Severely affected patients may need supportive and symptomatic care, such as antidiarrheal medications and fluids to maintain hydration.
Hookworm is a common intestinal parasite in dogs and cats that can cause diarrhea, loss of appetite and anemia. Puppies can carry hookworms from their mothers during breastfeeding, but any dog or cat can become infected after eating hookworm larvae from the environment, eating infected prey or when hookworm larvae penetrate their skin.
Hookworm larvae can also penetrate the skin of humans, which usually leads to a localized skin reaction that causes swelling and itching. In rare cases, the larvae can penetrate deeper tissue and cause more serious problems.
Avoid accidental exposure by wearing gloves when handling the soil or coming into contact with contaminated environments and then washing your hands thoroughly. Avoid walking barefoot in areas where animals may have defecated. Be sure to check your pets at least once a year for worms and other parasites.
Fortunately, hookworm infections can be treated with antiparasitic drugs. Most affected animals and humans will have a full recovery.
It is a bacterial disease caused by bacteria of the genus Leptospira. Bacteria is usually carried by the urine of rodents and other infected animals. Animals and humans that come into contact with contaminated water, mud and soil can contract the disease. They can also obtain it through direct contact with the urine of an infected animal or by eating an infected animal.
Dogs, cattle and humans are all susceptible to leptospirosis. The disease is rare in cats, but they can still carry and transmit the bacteria. While some animals and humans fight bacteria and never get sick, others get very sick. Leptospirosis in people usually starts with flu-like symptoms. If it progresses, it can affect the main organs, especially the liver and kidneys.
Treatment involves antibiotics and supportive care. Help prevent exposure by vaccinating your dog against leptospirosis. Avoid contact with the urine of affected animals and with potentially contaminated bodies of water.
Rabies is a deadly viral disease that affects mammals and is one of the most dangerous zoonotic diseases known.
Rabies is transmitted mainly by saliva, most commonly after a bite or scratch from an infected animal. Any mammal can contract rabies, including dogs, cats and humans.
Rabies usually begins with flu-like symptoms that progress to neurological dysfunction. It can lead to behavioral changes, disorientation, convulsions and aggression.
Humans exposed to rabies can be treated with a series of post-exposure vaccinations and human rabies immunoglobulin. However, it is almost always fatal when symptoms develop.
If you are bitten by an animal, it is essential that you see your doctor immediately. All dogs and cats should be regularly vaccinated against rabies to prevent the spread of this fatal disease.
Also called dermatophytosis, ringworm is a fungal skin infection that can affect most animals, including dogs, cats, rabbits, rodents and humans.
Ringworm is transmitted by contact with an affected animal or person or a contaminated environment. In people, the fungus usually causes red, scaly, circular lesions on the skin that itch. This leads to hair loss in areas where the hair normally grows.
Ringworm is quite easy to treat with antifungal medications. Fortunately, this is not a serious condition. However, it can be a nuisance to get rid of once it begins to spread to animals and humans in the home. Young, elderly and immunologically compromised individuals are at the highest risk.
The roundworm is another common intestinal parasite in dogs and cats, especially puppies and kittens. Roundworms usually cause weight loss, shaggy hair and a paunchy appearance in young animals. Dogs and cats usually contract worms from a contaminated environment, although dogs can also become infected in the womb.
Humans, especially children, can also be affected by roundworms if they accidentally ingest eggs left in the environment by infected animals. After ingestion, the larvae migrate throughout the body, affecting the eyes and internal organs. Fortunately, this is relatively unusual.
Avoid exposure by wearing gloves when handling the soil or coming into contact with infected animals. Always wash your hands thoroughly afterwards. Be sure to check your pets at least once a year for worms and other parasites.
Fortunately, worm infections can be treated with antiparasitic drugs. Most affected animals and humans will have a full recovery. However, when roundworms affect a human’s eye, heart or brain, for example, the disease can be more serious.
Commonly called scabies, sarcoptic mange is a skin disease caused by the mite Sarcoptes scabiei. Mites penetrate the skin and cause intense itching, thickening of the skin and hair loss.
Scabies can affect most animals, including people. However, different varieties of mites are adapted to live in different species of animals. Contact with the “wrong” mite variety often leads to milder symptoms than would be seen in a complete infestation.
Humans can get scabies through close contact with the affected animals, but the rash that develops can disappear without treatment. Humans with scabies can also transmit mites to other humans. Sarcoptic mange in animals can be treated and prevented with the routine use of many types of medications against fleas and ticks.
Ticks can transmit a variety of diseases, including Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Lyme disease and ehrlichiosis. Many tick-borne diseases affect humans and animals. However, these diseases are not transmitted directly from animals to humans. Instead, ticks are needed to transmit disease between hosts.
The signs of many tick-borne diseases can take time to appear and vary with the disease, but most cause flu-like symptoms at the beginning. Some diseases can cause skin rashes and / or joint pain.
The diagnosis and treatment of tick-borne diseases can be complicated. Recovery depends on the disease involved and the specifics of the patient’s case.
Toxoplasmosis is a disease caused by the protozoan parasite toxoplasma gondii. This parasite can be transmitted to most animals and humans, usually through ingestion of rare meat or cat feces.
Most healthy humans with the parasite have no symptoms. However, toxoplasmosis can cause serious health problems for people with compromised immune systems. It can also cause birth defects, miscarriage or stillbirth if the woman is infected for the first time during pregnancy. That is why it is so important for pregnant women to be careful around cat litter boxes and to avoid raw or undercooked food.
In the rare cases where humans are infected, symptoms can be vague. Moderate fever, headache and muscle pain are the most likely early signs. In severe cases, the parasite can cause damage to the brain or eyes. Treatment usually involves antibiotics and supportive care.