Editor's note: This the second of a two-part series. Read .
Can you catch a dog disease? Actually, yes.
Last week, we explored the risks of illnesses passed between animals and humans, otherwise known as zoonotic diseases. We will continue that discussion here, with five more conditions to watch for if you've got furry friends in the house.
Remember that while these diseases can be dangerous for every member of your family, simple precautions like education, good hygiene and appropriate veterinary care can greatly reduce the risk.
The best way to avoid these diseases is to regularly vaccinate, deworm and keep parasites out of your home.
Rabies: Rabies is a disease caused by a virus that attacks the brain. It can affect any warm-blooded animal, including dogs, cats and humans. It is almost always fatal. All mammals can catch rabies, but some are more susceptible than others. Foxes, skunks and raccoons are particularly prone to rabies and can be carriers. The disease is transmitted by the bite of a rabid animal to another mammal. The best way to prevent rabies is to have your pet vaccinated.
Toxoplasmosis: Toxoplasmosis is a parasitic disease associated with cats and their environment. This disease is transmitted to humans through contaminated cat feces. Humans can contract toxoplasmosis by cleaning kitty litter or touching dirt where cats may have been, including garden soil. It can also be transmitted through undercooked meat. Most people who get toxoplasmosis do not get sick, but some will experience swollen lymph nodes, muscle aches and other symptoms similar to those of the flu. Women who are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant should be especially careful about this disease because it can infect the fetus and cause a malformation or abortion.
Tapeworm infection: Tapeworms are parasites associated with flea infections in cats and dogs. Humans can contract this parasitic disease when a flea infected with tapeworm eggs is ingested. Most reported cases involve children. The most effective way to prevent infections in pets and humans is through aggressive and thorough flea control.
Salmonella: Salmonellosis is a bacterial disease associated with reptiles, birds, dogs, cats, guinea pigs, horses, farm animals and improper food preparation. Humans most commonly contract salmonellosis by eating contaminated food, such as chicken or eggs. However, animals can also carry the bacteria and pass it in their feces. The growing number of backyard chickens may also increase the incidence of infection. In humans, this disease can cause diarrhea, fever and stomach pain that starts one to three days after infection. These symptoms usually go away after one week. Prevention includes hand washing, particularly after handling reptiles, hamsters and guinea pigs or visiting a petting zoo, and caution regarding feeding uncooked animal products to pets.
E. coli: E. coli is a bacterial disease associated with cattle and improper food preparation. The most common type of E. coli infection that causes illness in people is called E. coli O157. While most people get this disease from contaminated food, it can also be passed in the manure of young calves and other cattle. Animals do not have to be ill to transmit the bacteria to humans. Symptoms of infection include watery or bloody diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps, nausea and vomiting. The illness may be mild, but is more likely to be severe in young children. Hand washing is especially important when handling cattle or visiting a petting zoo.
For more information on animal-related transmissible diseases, visit the Centers for Disease Control.
Dr. Michele Drake, veterinarian and owner of , has been treating pets in Encinitas for over 20 years. For more information on pet health or to schedule an appointment for your pet, please call The Drake Center at (760) 753-9393 or visitwww.thedrakecenter.com.