What Every Pet Owner Should Know About Zoonotic Disease

A dog kisses a man in the back of an SUV.

The fact that people can get really sick from animals is nothing new, but with globalization and human impact on the environment, zoonotic diseases continue to be a fairly significant threat. Zoonoses can include a wide-range of pathogens, such as bacteria, fungi, parasites, and of course, viruses. One of the many takeaways from the massive, worldwide coronavirus pandemic is that people are thinking differently about the spread of zoonotic disease and the ways we can keep safe from exposure and infection.  

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Like us, the animals we live with are vulnerable to various germs, parasites, fungi, and bacteria that attack their immune systems and potentially cause illness. 

A zoonotic disease is an illness that can be passed between animals and humans. Different kinds of illnesses may affect different species, and symptoms can range from mild to severe enough to cause death. 

Through The Pet Care Lens

Zoonotic diseases are found around the globe and include ebola, HIV, smallpox, swine flu, and Zika fever. The most common zoonoses that can be shared by pets and their people include:

  • Rabies
  • Lyme disease
  • Salmonella
  • Cat-scratch fever
  • West Nile virus
  • Chagas disease

Because the list is fairly extensive (and ever-growing), it is essential to know how the diseases spread.

Modes Of Transmission

In order to protect your pets and family members from picking up dangerous pathogens, please be aware of the many ways zoonotic diseases are spread:

  • Direct contact with infected bodily fluids, like saliva, urine, blood or feces
  • Indirect contact with something an infected animal touched, including soil, water, surfaces and more
  • Vectors, like fleas, mosquitoes, and ticks can pick up zoonotic disease from an infected animal and then pass it to another mammal
  • Contaminated food and water

Prevent The Spread Of Zoonotic Disease

Taking diligent action to prevent the spread of zoonotic diseases is your first line of defense. Remember to always do the following:

  • Always wash your hands with hot water and soap after digging in dirt, cleaning the litter box, and touching unfamiliar animals. 
  • Limit your pet’s exposure to disease-carrying rodents and insects around your home.
  • Avoid offering raw meat to your pet.
  • Maintain yearly wellness exam schedules so we can test for zoonotic disease and keep monthly parasite prevention medication up-to-date. 

If you have additional questions or concerns about your pet’s defenses against zoonotic disease, please let us know. Our staff is always happy to help our patients (and their families) stay safe!