July 19

Dog Health Part 9: Transmissible Diseases


While uncommon, a scary reality of dog ownership is the fact that there are certain diseases that your beloved pet can pass on to you.  Diseases that are capable of being passed on to a human from a dog are called Zoonotic diseases.


Talking to the Vet


The primary line of defense against Zoonotic diseases is the veterinarian.  If your dog becomes ill and you seek medical treatment from your veterinarian, he or she has the responsibility of informing you that the disease is Zoonotic.  In addition, he or she should give you advice in order to prevent the disease from spreading from your dog to you.

At the same time, the veterinarian cannot legally diagnosis a disease that you may have acquired from your pet.  Similarly, he or she cannot help treat the disease in a human.

If you suspect the disease may have spread to you, it is imperative for you to contact a physician right away.


Types of Zoonotic Diseases


The history of Zoonotic diseases is lengthy.  Both the Bible and ancient Greek recordings mention the Plague, one of the deadliest Zoonotic diseases man has ever encountered.  Today, a number of Zoonotic diseases remain.  They include:


Rabies: Rabies is a disease that infects the nervous system.  It is transmitted from one mammal to the other through saliva, with the most common method of transmission being from a bite.  If preventative measures are not taken after being bit by an animal with rabies, death will result.  All mammals can carry rabies.  Wild animals most commonly infected with rabies include raccoons and bats.  The best line of defense against rabies is to keep your dog up-to-date on its rabies vaccination.


Lyme Disease: Lyme disease is transmitted through the bite of a deer tick.  If the bacteria causing Lyme disease is not eradicated from the body, it will establish itself in the body tissue and potentially cause a number of symptoms.  Some symptoms include pain and damage to the joints, the nervous system, and organ systems.


Lyme disease is most common in the northeast and upper-midwest in the United States.  While your dog cannot directly transmit Lyme disease to you, it can bring infected ticks home to you.  Therefore, it is important to maintain proper tick control on your pet to ensure you both remain healthy.


Ringworm: Ringworm is a contagious fungus.  It is most commonly found on the scalp, the body, the nails, the feet, and the groin area.  It can be easily spread from a pet to a human by touching the infected area on your pet.  The red ring on the skin usually makes it easy to identify ringworm.  It can also be spread if the infected area on your dog rubs against a surface, such as bed linens, clothing, or furniture, and you later touch the object.  To prevent catching ringworm, be sure to treat your dog immediately after noticing the ringworm infection and keep the area covered.


Cryptosporidiosis: Cryptosporidiosis is caused by parasites and causes diarrhea.  After infecting your dog’s body, the parasite lives in the intestine and gets passed out in the stool.  It has a protective outer shell, allowing it to survive outside of the body for a period of time.  It is also resistant to chlorine-based disinfectants and can be passed on to humans through contact.  It can also be found in water, such as in a pond or pool that you share with your dog.


Risk Factors


If you are a pet owner, you are automatically at a higher risk of catching Zoonotic diseases than someone without a pet.  There are, however, certain factors that make you more susceptible to catching one of these diseases.  Infants and small children, for example, are more prone to catching Zoonotic diseases because their immune system is immature and because they have poorer hygiene habits.


Pregnant women and the elderly are also at a higher risk because their immune systems are not as strong.  Similarly, those with HIV/AIDS or who are undergoing cancer therapy are at a greater risk because their immune systems have been compromised.


Although the chances of catching a Zoonotic disease from your pet is rare, it is always best to take necessary precautions.  Handle your pet with gloves if it is suffering from a Zoonotic disease and be sure to keep a safe distance while still treating your pet.


No one ever wants their beloved dog to ever contract any of these transmissible diseases, let alone contract it themselves, but the unfortunate truth is that it can possibly happen to any of our pooches.

It can be financially draining to treat both your dog as well as yourself (should there ever be the off-chance that we contract it from the dogs). As such, it is highly recommended that a proper, quality pet insurance be purchased to mitigate the financial cost of treatment at least. You can get a free quotation here.

about the author

Frank Harrigan

Frank loves tacos and dogs - the good, bad and ugly sides of dog ownership.

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