Your fluffy feline curls herself around your neck, you snuggle into her plush fur, and drift off to sleep. This has been your cat’s favorite sleeping spot since you brought her home as a tiny kitten, and you can’t imagine trying to fall asleep without her wrapped around you. However, the next morning, as you’re getting ready for work, you notice a circular, reddened spot on your neck. Thinking it’s odd that you broke out in a rash only a few days after you noticed your cat itching, you wonder if there’s a connection. Your cat continues to scratch, and you notice additional scaly patches on your skin, so you schedule an appointment with your Mill Creek Animal Hospital veterinarian.

After a physical exam, Dr. Schumacher diagnoses your cat with ringworm, evidenced by the hidden patches of hair loss in her thick, fluffy coat. Although the ringworm culture takes more than a week to develop, Dr. Schumacher prescribes antifungal medication to help clear up the infection, so your cat does not continue to suffer. Sadly for you and your kitty, she also recommends refraining from snuggling together until the fungus is completely eliminated, or you will continue to be reinfected. 

Ringworm is one of many zoonotic diseases (i.e., diseases that can be transmitted between people and pets) that can easily be spread through contact with contaminated bedding, furniture, or by handling your pet. In addition to ringworm, here are five other zoonotic diseases you need to watch for.

#1: Intestinal parasites

Cats and dogs can be infected with a variety of intestinal parasites, many of which can be transmitted to people through contact with infective feces. Human intestinal-parasite infections typically occur in small children, who are more likely to stick their hands in their mouth after handling pets, or digging in the dirt. For example, young children have the highest risk for roundworm exposure, especially if they play in uncovered sandboxes, or sand or dirt at a local playground. Avid gardeners are also at risk for roundworm infection if they do not wear gloves, or wash their hands thoroughly after digging in the dirt. 

The most common intestinal parasites and protozoan species people can contract from pets and wildlife include:

  • Roundworms
  • Hookworms
  • Tapeworms
  • Giardia
  • Toxoplasma

However, good hygiene and a proper parasite prevention regimen can mitigate much of the potential infection risk. Ensure you always wash your hands after handling your pet, cleaning the litter box, or picking up waste, and before eating. Also, keeping your pet on a year-round heartworm preventive that includes an intestinal parasite dewormer can protect them, and your family, from parasitic infections. 

#2: External parasites

Your pet may also carry external parasites, which can latch onto you, and enter your home. External parasites tend to prefer cats or dogs to people, and the diseases they cause cannot directly pass to you from your pet; however, if your pet is not on a quality flea and tick prevention program year-round, they can serve as transportation for these pests. Diseases carried by fleas and ticks include Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, ehrlichiosis, babesiosis, anaplasmosis, tapeworms, plague, and a host of others. Although these parasites are small, they can create potentially life-threatening conditions in people and pets, so proper prevention is essential for continued good health.

#3: Leptospirosis

A zoonotic disease transmitted in infected animals’ urine, leptospirosis can linger in soil or water for months, infecting those who come in contact with the pathogen. Most human leptospirosis cases result from recreational water activities, but infected pets can transmit the bacteria to people through their urine. If you become infected with leptospirosis, you may experience flu-like symptoms, or liver or kidney disease. There is a vaccine for this potentially fatal condition, and it is considered a core vaccine for dogs. 

#4: Rabies

Rabies affects the nervous system and is generally fatal, but can also be prevented through routine vaccination. Few rabies cases are seen in the U.S. because of a rigorous vaccination protocol for pets that limits the potential for disease transmission through bites. Keep your pet away from wildlife, and avoid interacting with wild animals yourself, and ensure only animal or pest control services handle stray animals and wildlife.

#5: Bartonellosis

Also known as cat scratch disease, bartonellosis is spread from cat to cat by fleas, but can occur in people from a cat scratch or bite. You may develop a mild infection and flu-like symptoms, although more serious problems, such as heart valve damage, can also occur. Reduce your risk of cat scratch disease by keeping your cat on a quality flea preventive year-round, avoiding rough play with your cat, and preventing your cat from licking any of your open wounds. 

Protect your pet and your family from zoonotic diseases by investing in routine preventive care for your furry companion. An excellent wellness care plan that includes appropriate vaccinations and parasite prevention will go a long way toward warding off many easily transmitted diseases. Give us a call to schedule your pet’s wellness visit, so you can continue to enjoy snuggling with your healthy, parasite-free pal.