Share The Love, Not The Diseases: Common Zoonoses In Pets And How To Prevent Them

Posted on: 28 March 2016

In addition to love and loyalty that you cherish from your dog or cat, your pets can also share some illnesses with you and your family. Zoonoses are illnesses that are transmissible to humans from animals. Know which health problems in pets are zoonotic and what you can do to reduce the health risk of transmission to your family.

Intestinal Parasites

Roundworms, hookworms and giardia are intestinal parasites that can affect cats, dogs and humans. Humans can contract them by ingesting feces from their infected pet. Those at greatest risk are young children who may be lax with washing their hands and who habitually place their fingers in their mouths. Prevent intestinal parasites by practicing the following:

  • Have your pet's stool analyzed regularly at the pet hospital.
  • Remove all feces from your property when your pet eliminates.
  • Cover children's sandboxes to prevent pets from eliminating in them.
  • Make sure that all family members wash their hands diligently after interacting with an infected pet.
  • Administer a heartworm preventative product that also protects your pet against roundworms and hookworms.


Tapeworm is another intestinal parasite that affects cats, dogs and humans when a flea is ingested. If you observe segments that resemble grains of rice in your pet's feces, around his anus or in the hair under his tail, bring a sample to your veterinarian so that a diagnosis can be confirmed and treatment initiated. Prevent tapeworm infections by administering a flea preventative product that is recommended by your veterinarian.


Ringworm is a fungal infection of the skin. It exhibits as rounded areas of thinning hair and flaky skin. Ringworm affects cats, dogs and humans, and it is transmitted through surface contact with the spores that an infected pet sheds into the environment. Reducing the risk of ringworm infections in pets is challenging, but keep the following tips in mind:

  • Avoid grooming parlors that do not appear spotless and that do not disinfect all grooming instruments after each use.
  • Avoid contact with other pets that may be infected.


Scabies is caused by burrowing mange mites in the skin of dogs, cats and humans. Scabies is highly contagious. If your pet is scratching excessively, bring him to the animal hospital for evaluation and treatment. Since the scabies mites of dogs and cats are unable to complete their life cycle in human hosts, treating your infected pet will break the contagion cycle and alleviate your symptoms. As with ringworm infections, prevent scabies by limiting contact with other pets that could be infected.

Cat Scratch Fever

Cat scratch fever, which is also known as bartonellosis, is a bacterial infection that is transmitted from fleas through their feces. Cats contract the infection through grooming, during which they ingest the feces from an infected flea. If a cat scratches herself and collects infected flea feces in her claws, she can then transmit the infection to a human by scratching him or her. An infected cat can also transmit bartonellosis by grooming herself and then licking an open cut or wound on a human. Reduce your cat's risk for contracting this infection by administering a flea control product that is recommended by your veterinarian.


This protozoan parasite is shed in an infected cat's stool. Cats contract toxoplasmosis by consuming prey that is infected. Reduce the risk of contracting toxoplasmosis from your cat by practicing the following precautions:

  • Wear gloves when cleaning the litter box and wash your hands thoroughly after the task is done.
  • If you are pregnant, delegate litter box cleaning duties to another family member.
  • Keep your cat strictly indoors to prevent her from hunting and consuming small mammals and birds that may be infected.


Rabies is transmitted when an infected animal inflicts a bite wound. One of the most common vectors of rabies is the bat. Rabies is fatal, but the incidence of rabies has dramatically decreased through mandatory rabies vaccination protocols for all dogs and cats. Keep your pet protected against rabies by following your veterinarian's recommended vaccination schedule. 


Leptospirosis is a potentially fatal bacterial infection that affects the liver and kidneys after a pet drinks from stagnant water that contains urine from infected wildlife or other pets. You could contract leptospirosis by not wearing gloves or by not decontaminating the environment while taking care of your infected pet. To reduce your pet's risk for contracting leptospirosis, practice the following measures:

  • Discuss vaccinating your dog against leptospirosis with your veterinarian.
  • Prevent your dog from drinking out of birdbaths, puddles and stagnant bodies of water.

Following your veterinarian's recommendations to keep your dog and cat healthy will in turn help your family to stay healthier by reducing the risk for zoonotic diseases. For more information, contact Grove Center Veterinary Hospital or a similar location.