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10 Diseases pets can transmit to humans

Zoonoses or Zoonotic Illnesses are the diseases that animals transmit to humans. There are more than 39 such diseases which animals directly transmit to humans, more than 48 diseases which humans get from bug bites that feasted on an infected animal and more than 42 diseases which humans get from eating or touching water or food infected with animal feces.

Types of Diseases Pets can transmit – Causes, Symptoms, Investigation and Treatment

We list below a few of the common diseases transmitted by animals to humans.

1. Lyme disease

The pet can physically pass the tick infected with Lyme bacteria.

Symptoms: The symptoms include chills, fever, headache, muscle pain, joint pain, and stiff neck.

Tests and Investigations: Blood sample using ELISA (Enzyme-linked Immunosorbent Assay) test locates the Lyme disease antibodies followed by a Western Blot test which confirms the result of the ELISA test.

Treatment: The Physician treats the disease by prescribing antibiotics to the patient.

2. Psittacosis (Parrot Fever)

Birds spread Chlamydia psittaci bacteria through their droppings, which causes this disease.

Symptoms: The symptoms include dry cough, fever, chills, headaches, muscle aches, shortness of breath, blood-tinged sputum, and joint aches.

Tests and Investigations: The tests include blood sample using ELISA test and Urinalysis.

Treatment: Antibiotics treat the disease.

3. Cat Scratch Fever

This is the result of a scratch or bite of a cat causing an infected wound.

Symptoms: The symptoms include loss of appetite, discomfort, headache, fatigue, fever, and swollen Lymph Nodes.

Tests and Investigations: The tests include a physical examination to locate an enlarged spleen, Bartonella Henselae IFA test from the blood and a Lymph Node Biopsy.

Treatment: Antibiotics treat the disease.

4. Plague

Fleabite, close contact with rodents such as prairie dogs, rabbits, rats and squirrels or bites and scratches from contaminated domestic cats are the main causes of Plague.

Symptoms: The symptoms include chills, fever, headache, seizures, muscle pain, Lymph Gland (Bubo) swelling and malaise.

Tests and Investigations: The tests conducted to detect Plague include Blood Culture, Sputum Culture, and Culture of the Lymph Node Aspirate (fluid taken from an affected Lymph Node).

Treatment: The Physician treats the disease by prescribing antibiotics to the patient. Depending on the condition, the patient may also need Oxygen, respiratory support and intravenous fluids. Pneumonic Plague has risk of infection and hence people in contact with the patient require antibiotics as a preventive measure.

5. Rabies

Infected animals transmit this disease through their bites.

Symptoms: The symptoms for Rabies include anxiety, Insomnia, confusion, partial Paralysis, agitation, hyper-salivation, hallucinations, Hydrophobia, and difficulty in swallowing.

Tests and Investigations: The tests to detect this disease include testing samples of Saliva, Spinal fluid, Serum, and Skin biopsies of hair follicles at the nape of the neck.

Treatment: The treatment for Rabies involves a series of vaccines. The usual dosage is 5 vaccinations given over a period of 28 days. Most patients receive a treatment called Human Rabies Immunoglobulin (HRIG), on the day the bite occurred.

6. Q Fever

Inhalation of organisms found in urine, feces, and milk of infected animals causes Q fever in humans. Tick bites and consumption of unpasteurized dairy products may also lead to the disease.

Symptoms: The symptoms include high fever, headache, malaise, chills, sweating, Diarrhea, abdominal pain, vomiting, chest pain, and nausea.

Tests and Investigations: The result of a blood test confirms existence of this disease.

Treatment: Antibiotics treat Q fever.

7. Infections caused by Worms

The eggs or larvae of various worms such as ringworm, roundworm, tapeworm, and hookworm passes from the stool of the pets and infests the soil. Walking barefoot on the contaminated soil causes infection. Accidently eating these eggs also causes the infection.  Usually cats can get a variety of these intestinal parasites or worms.

Symptoms: The symptoms include Diarrhea, weight loss, Constipation, bloating or round, pot bellied appearance to the abdomen, worms visible in stool or segments of worm seen near anus, vomiting, trouble in breathing, and coughing.

Tests and Investigations: Physicians advise fecal examination.

Treatment: Antibiotics treat the infection.

8. Campylobacteriosis

A dog or cat infected with this disease releases the bacteria with its stool. A contact with this infected stool transmits the disease to humans.

Symptoms: The symptoms include fever, cramping abdominal pain, vomiting, nausea, and watery or bloody Diarrhea.

Tests and Investigations: The physician prescribes a culture of a stool specimen and a CBC blood test.

Treatment: Usually the infection goes away on its own and does not need treatment with antibiotics. Severe infections may require antibiotics.

9.  Salmonellosis

Eating raw or undercooked meat, poultry, eggs, or egg products causes Salmonella infection. However, humans may get it from pets through contact with the feces of dogs, cats, birds, and horses.

Symptoms: The symptoms include nausea, vomiting, pain in the abdomen, Diarrhea, chills, fever, headache, muscle pain, and blood in the stool.

Tests and Investigations: The tests involved to detect this disease include a blood test and testing a sample stool.

Treatment: Usually the infection goes away on its own and does not need treatment with antibiotics. Severe infections may require antibiotics.

10. Toxoplasmosis

Carelessly handling cat litter, leads to accidental consumption of infectious particles which in turn leads to this disease.

Symptoms: The symptoms of this disease include headache, fever, muscle pain, enlarged Lymph Nodes in the head and neck, sore throat, and mild illness similar to Mononucleosis.

Tests and Investigations: The tests to detect the disease include Antibody Titers for Toxoplasmosis, Cranial CT scan, MRI of head, Slit Lamp exam, and Brain biopsy.

Treatment: Usually the infection goes away on its own and does not need treatment with antibiotics. Severe infections may require antibiotics.

Prevention to Avoid Recurrence

A few simple measures may help preventing diseases transmitted by animals as well as avoid their recurrence. We list below a few of these preventive measures:

  1. Take the pet to the vet regularly
  2. Keep track of the vaccinations of the pets
  3. Avoid rough play with dogs and cats
  4. Wash your hands after handling pets
  5. Practice good hygiene and wear gloves while handling feces of pets
  6. Dispose the pet’s stool frequently
  7. Keep your home and pets free from fleas
  8. People with low immune system should not touch feces and should not let the pets lick their faces or touch open wounds