Don’t Get Sick: Four Pet Diseases To Watch For

With diligent care and cleaning of your pets, along with regular checkups at the vet’s office, it’s pretty unlikely that you would contract a disease from your pet. However, all animals are potential carriers of zoonotic diseases. Here are four pet diseases to watch for:

Cats – Toxoplasmosis

You could contract this parasite from your cat if you aren’t careful to wash your hands after cleaning out your kitty’s litterbox. Although an estimated 60 million people in the US carry the Toxoplasma parasite, most don’t show symptoms. However, in pregnant women and those with compromised immunity, Toxoplasma could cause serious health problems. Tips from the CDC to avoid bringing toxoplasmosis home include changing the litterbox daily, keeping your cat indoors and feeding cats canned or dried commercial food or well-cooked meats – not raw or undercooked food.

Dogs – Bubonic Plague

While you can’t get the plague directly from Fido, you could get it from one of his fleas, if that flea is carrying the bacterium Yersinia pestis. In humans, the Bubonic Plague can cause headache, chills, fever, weakness and swollen lymph nodes. Treat promptly with antibiotics, and make sure you keep your pets free of fleas. Cases of Bubonic Plague are very rare, with only about 7 reported cases per year in the US.

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Image: Yersinia pestis Bacteria, NAID / CC by 2.0

Birds – Parrot Fever

Parrot Fever, or Psittacosis, comes from infection from the bacteria Chlamydia psittaci. This can be contracted by “inhaling dried secretions from infected birds” such as pet parakeets, macaws, parrots or cockatiels. Another very rare disease, there have been only 10 reported cases in the US since 2010 and infections can be treated with a course of tetracyclines.

Turtles – Salmonella

Up to 90% of reptiles carry salmonella on their shells or skin. Usually the infected pet doesn’t show symptoms but in humans it can cause fever, vomiting, nausea and headache. The sale of small turtles was actually outlawed in 1975 to help prevent the spread of salmonella. “All reptiles and amphibians have the potential to be carriers of Salmonella,” reports Vic Boddie II, Ph.D., a consumer safety officer in the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine. “And if children come in contact with small turtles, they run the risk of becoming very ill.”

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Image: Salmonella Bacteria, NAID / CC by 2.0

 

The CDC offers these tips for making sure you protect yourself from zoonotic disease:

– Make sure your pet is under a veterinarian’s care to help protect your pet and your family from possible parasite infections.

– Practice the four Ps: Pick up Pet Poop Promptly, and dispose of properly. Be sure to wash your hands after handling pet waste.

– Wash your hands frequently, especially after touching animals, and avoid contact with animal feces.

– Follow proper food-handling procedures to reduce the risk of transmission from contaminated food.

Stories of zoonotic infections are both scary and fascinating, especially this case from Wisconsin.

FEATURED IMAGE: Kittens, Andrea Arden/ CC by 2.0
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laurie-breen

Laurie Breen

Laurie Breen is a freelance writer well-versed in research communications and grant writing. She received her Bachelors Degree in Psychology from Smith College and has worked previously at the University of Queensland's Centre for Clinical Research in Brisbane, Australia. Her favorite conversational topic is "antibiotic-resistant bacteria," making her a big hit at parties.