Our furry friends bring us lots of joy; we cuddle with them and treat them like family. They respond by licking our hands and face and showering us with unconditional love and attention. Close contact with our furry bundles of joy can also unknowingly cause microorganisms to be passed along to us, which can cause zoonotic diseases. A zoonotic disease is a disease that can be passed between animals and humans. Read on to learn about some of these common zoonotic maladies, and how to safeguard your pet and family from them.
Leptospirosis is an infectious disease caused by bacteria. It can lead to potentially fatal infections of the kidney, liver, brain, lung or heart. Dogs are most often affected by Lepto. They commonly become infected and develop leptospirosis from exposure to, or drinking from rivers, lakes, or streams.
Humans commonly develop leptospirosis through exposure to the urine or bodily fluids of an infected dog. It’s important that you see your veterinarian so they can recommend vaccines that can effectively protect your dog against many strains of this disease.
Hookworms & Roundworms
Hookworms can be acquired in puppies and kittens from their mother’s milk. They can then be transmitted to humans from your pet’s feces, or from contaminated soil when walking barefoot. Hookworms live in the small intestine and can cause gastrointestinal symptoms and blood loss leading to anemia.
Roundworms are typically acquired by your pet when they eat the infected feces of another animal. They most commonly become transmitted to humans through the ingestion of roundworm eggs from contaminated soil in your garden or backyard.
It’s very important that puppies and kittens be de-wormed as they commonly carry hookworms and/or roundworms. If you suspect your pet has been exposed, you should drop off a stool sample at your local veterinarian for analysis.
Lyme disease is caused by a bacterium that is transmitted to humans and pets through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks. Blacklegged ticks are also known by the name Ixodes Scapularis, and the common name: Deer ticks. Acute Lyme disease causes fever and lethargy. While Lyme disease cannot be spread directly to you from your pet, they can bring infected ticks into your home or yard. Protect yourself and your pet by asking your veterinarian about tick control products for your pets.
Giardia is a microscopic parasite that can live in the intestines of animals and humans. It is often transmitted through contaminated water and is one of the most common waterborne diseases in the United States. Common signs and symptoms in both dogs and humans include diarrhea, gas, abdominal discomfort, nausea, and vomiting.
Puppies and kittens have a higher risk of illness from Giardia so it is important to not allow them to drink water from areas where other animals may have left their feces. Your veterinarian can test your pet’s feces to see if giardia is present and prescribe a safe, effective treatment for control of the disease.
Safeguarding Measures You Can Take
Contracting a pet-borne disease requires very close contact with your pet or their excretions, so zoonotic diseases can be avoided with these common sense approaches:
- Annual Exams! Make sure your pet gets an annual preventative exam by a licensed veterinarian, including a parasite screening test, and is current on all vaccinations.
- Practice good tick protection! Regularly check for ticks on your pets and the humans around them and ask your veterinarian about tick control products for your pet.
- Pick up the poop! Keep your environment free of feces. Make sure you have a clean yard and litter box at all times.
- Cleanliness! Thoroughly wash vegetables from your garden and hands or other exposed skin that come into contact with soil frequented by pets.
- Fresh, Clean, H20! Avoid drinking improperly treated water.
See Your Veterinarian for Testing & Safe, Effective Treatment
If you suspect that your pet is ill or may be infected take them immediately to an AAHA accredited animal hospital. While information on the internet may provide you with some ideas, only a licensed veterinarian can provide you with an accurate diagnosis.
Valentine’s Day… a time of love letters, boxes of chocolate, giant teddy bears, and… a sick pet?! It only takes one moment to turn a great day into a disaster, but we’d like to help you avoid that altogether with some quick and easy to remember Valentine’s Day Pet Safety Tips! While you’re celebrating with your better half and showing them how much you care, make sure to show your pets how much you care for them, too. Follow these easy tips and tricks to make sure everyone feels the love this Valentine’s Day.
Chocolate is a year round hazard to pets, but on Valentine’s Day there always seems to be a lot more of it floating around. While sweet and delicious to us, chocolate contains stimulants called methylxanthines that, if ingested by your pets, will negatively affect their neurological, gastrointestinal, and cardiac function by causing vomiting, hyperactivity, seizures, diarrhea, and an atypically increased heart rate. Milk chocolate and white chocolate are higher in fats which can lead to life-threatening pancreas inflammation, while dark chocolate and baker’s chocolate have some of the highest levels of methylxanthines because of the high cacao percentage.
Don’t Break my Candy Heart
If you’re planning on getting your loved one gum, candies, or other sweet treats, make sure that they stay far from the reach of your pets! Candy is never recommended for consumption by our four-legged friends, but it is especially an issue when those sweets contain xylitol. This sugar substitute is very dangerous and potentially fatal to pets. If ingested, xylitol can cause hypoglycemia (a sudden drop in blood sugar), which can cause your pet to suffer from seizures, depression, and loss of coordination.
Flowers Aren’t a Cat’s Best Friend
Flowers and bouquets of all sorts are everywhere during Valentine’s Day. While not all flowers are toxic to pets, Lilies in particular are toxic to cats. They can cause kidney failure, lethargy, diarrhea, or vomiting. If you are unsure of what flowers are toxic or non-toxic- reference this handy ASPCA plant guide. Another flower that should be mentioned is the Rose. The flower itself isn’t toxic, but the spiny thorns pose a big threat. If ingested, bitten, or stepped on they can cause major infections if they break the skin.
You Got Me a What?!
Much like on Christmas, birthdays, and other gift-giving occasions, Valentine’s Day seems like the perfect day to surprise your loved one with that dog or cat they’ve always wanted. This can be an amazing experience- for the animal and your loved one, but make sure you are both prepared for what the idea of owning a pet means. Animals are a lifelong commitment that take time, patience, money, and attention. If you do decide to get a pet for someone, drop some subtle hints beforehand and make sure that they would be fully prepared and capable of taking care of a pet. An alternative to the “surprise, take care of this animal!” is to find out if your local shelter offers gift certificates; then you can go with your better half to the shelter and pick out a pet together!
- If you’re getting cozy by the fireplace, make sure your pet is cozy away from any flames!
- After you’re done opening gifts, make sure you properly dispose of all bows, wrapping
paper, ribbons, balloons and tape. Fun to look at, but not fun to ingest!
Extra: Show animals how much you love them, too!
- Visit a local shelter and spread the love by volunteering.
- Give your furry friend some pet-safe treats and toys:
Boarding Assistant & Social Media Coordinator
Some pet owners rely on the presumption that what is safe for humans to ingest is also safe for their pets, however that’s just not always true. Xylitol, a substance found in many everyday products is safe for human consumption, but it can be harmful and potentially life-threatening to dogs.
Xylitol is Toxic to Dogs
Xylitol is a sugar alcohol sweetener commonly used in sugar-free gum and candies, toothpaste, chewable vitamins, baked goods and even peanut butter. The compound doesn’t affect glucose levels in people, but when ingested by dogs it can cause a dangerous surge in insulin. In as little as 15 minutes it can cause a life-threatening drop in blood sugar (insulin shock/hypoglycemia), seizures, and severe liver damage. Signs of xylitol poisoning include weakness, lethargy, loss of coordination, collapse, and seizures. These symptoms can develop within 30 minutes of ingestion, and require immediate veterinary treatment. Just three grams of xylitol, or 6 pieces of xylitol containing gum, can kill a 65-pound dog.
Common Products Containing Xylitol
Here are a few of the more popular brands that contain xylitol…
- Nuts ’N More
- Krush Nutrition
- Spry Mints
- Spry Chewing Gum
- Xlear Nasal Spray
- Nicorette Gum
- Xylichew Gum
Treatment for Xylitol Poisoning
If you suspect your dog has ingested a product containing Xylitol, call your veterinarian immediately; The amount of Xylitol ingestion is often difficult to determine because the level of sweetener varies greatly by manufacturer and product. Treatment typically consists of induced vomiting, 24-hour hospitalization, and administration of IV fluids containing glucose to stabilize blood sugar levels. Liver levels are also monitored and tested every few hours until they have normalized.
Prevention is Key
The number of products containing Xylitol has been growing steadily over the years and so has the number of reported cases of animal poisonings. You may be watching your diet by eating Xylitol sweetened products, but you should also be watching your dog to ensure that they don’t ingest any Xylitol containing products. Make sure to check your food’s labels and keep Xylitol containing products where dogs can’t access them.
ASPCA Animal Poison Control: https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control
National Center for Biotechnology Information: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/
Contributed by: Zach Buchanan, Veterinary Assistant (pictured with his pug Katie)