A disease that can be infectious to both people and animals is called a zoonosis. Many of these diseases can be seen in our pets and are routinely prevented by your veterinarian. Your pet can also transmit parasites to you as well, which may not carry a disease that can be contracted by a human, but can cause their own problems.
Hookworms are a type of parasite that can enter our bodies through the skin and cause an itchy rash. Prevention can be achieved by deworming young animals at least four times and then using a monthly preventative such as Advantage Multi. Always wash your hands when picking up feces and never walk barefoot where your pet goes to the restroom.
Roundworms are common parasites that can be in our pet’s feces, can cause damage to our heart, liver or even our eyes when eggs are accidently ingested. Prevention can be achieved by deworming young animals at least four times and then using a monthly preventative such as Advantage Multi. Always wash your hands when picking up feces and never walk barefoot where your pet goes to the restroom.
Whipworms are a common parasite in our pets. Infections are more common in kennel type settings where adequate sanitation may be lacking. These parasites cause diarrhea with weight loss and can be intermittently shed in the feces. So a routine fecal test may not show a positive. People can be at risk for an infection when in contact with feces but it is very uncommon. Wearing gloves when handling feces and hand washing is the prevention. Pets can be treated by your veterinarian and reinfection can be prevented by using Advantage Multi or Interceptor monthly.
Tapeworms are a common parasite and will infect people who contact contaminated water or food. These small “rice” looking segments pass out in feces and may be missed on routine fecal examinations. Fleas do carry one type of tapeworm so all flea infected pets should be treated with medication to remove tapeworms as well. When the pet bites at the flea, the pet ingests the flea thus becoming infected. Animals that hunt may eat rodents that have fleas and thus results in the same infection. Raw diets may be contaminated with tapeworm larva. These tapeworm segments may pass out of the anus at any time so you may have segments on you when you are holding your pet. People get exposed when they do not wash their hands. Children are at risk as they are more likely to lick fingers and play in the dirt. Echinococcus is a type of tapeworm that is very dangerous. They cause hydatid cysts which can look like tumors on an x-ray. They are literally bags of tapeworms. By using flea preventatives, tapeworm infections can be reduced. If animals hunt, then routine fecals or treatments of tapeworm medications can be done on a regular basis. There are a few monthly preventatives such as IverHart Max that can help prevent infection. Removing feces from yards will help decrease infection in our pets.
Giardia is a protozoan parasite that will infect people and animals. Its cysts will pass in feces of infected animals and contaminate water or food sources. It used to be called the “beaver disease” as people that drank water from streams that beavers lived in became infected with this disease. In animals, symptoms include diarrhea, weight loss, abdominal pain and lack of appetite. People describe the same symptoms and the cramps can be intense. Boiling water for over 60 seconds will kill the protozoa. In kennels use bleach water to clean runs. Medications can be used to treat infections and all animals should be quarantined to prevent spreading of the disease. It can survive for months in the soil. Lab tests can diagnosis the disease and proper hygiene can keep it from ruining your day. A vaccine for Giardia exists, however it is not recommended for your pets as it lacks severely in efficacy.
For most of these diseases, good personal hygiene is the best way to prevent the disease. Wash hands before eating any food, wear gloves when cleaning the litter box, or picking up feces. Deworm all young animals at least 4 times and then use medications that have parasite preventatives in their monthly dose such as Advantage Multi.
Check back next week for information from our resident Veterinary Technician Chelsea on Topical Parasites/Fungals such as fleas, ticks, scabies, and ringworm!
- Doc Gifford