iStock_000020257269_MediumAre you familiar with the term ‘zoonotic’?

Zoonotic diseases are those which can be passed between animals and humans. And, with more and more homes in the United States having pets, it is important to understand these types of diseases and how to prevent them.


Rabies may seem like a far-fetched possibility, but a lot of people forget how scary rabies can be, and how common the disease is. The rabies virus can affect any mammal and is transmitted through saliva. In all mammals it invades the central nervous system, causing neurological signs and eventually death.

There is no cure for rabies, so it is very important keep your pet up to date on his or her vaccination. Pets who are unvaccinated and potentially exposed to rabies are recommended by the CDC to be euthanized or kept under strict isolation for 6 months.


Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection that dogs can acquire when exposed to the urine of infected animals. Wild animals can carry the disease, leaving the soil and water in the areas where they live contaminated. Infected critters urinating near homes can contaminate puddles and other areas your dog may want to explore

Leptospirosis can affect the kidneys and liver. If your pet contracts Leptospirosis, his or her urine and bodily secretions are a source of infection for any humans who come into contact with it. About one-third of human Leptospirosis cases come from exposure to an infected pet.

Leptospirosis can be treated with antibiotics, but if not caught early enough in the process, irreversible kidney damage can result. Vaccinating at-risk pets can decrease your family’s odds of contracting this disease.

Intestinal Parasites

While most intestinal parasites of the dog and cat prefer to live in their intended host, in rare cases they may take up residence in a human. Many times this results in a phenomenon called larval migrans in which the parasite goes to areas in the body besides the intestinal tract.

Because most intestinal parasites are transmitted via a fecal-oral route, it is very important to use good hygiene when cleaning up your pet’s feces. It is also recommended to screen your pet periodically for intestinal parasites via a fecal test and utilize a dewormer routinely to reduce your family’s risk.


Toxoplasma gondii is a parasitic organism found in the intestines of some cats. Infected cats can shed the organism in their feces. Animals, including people, who accidentally ingest or inhale the organism can become infected.

Toxoplasmosis can be a serious disease in people, especially those who are immunocompromised or pregnant. These people should avoid cleaning the litter box and having direct contact with cat feces. You can reduce your cat’s risk of contracting Toxoplasmosis by keeping him or her indoors and preventing hunting.

Many diseases and infections are able to be transmitted from pets to people and vice versa. With a little care and understanding, however, most of them are totally avoidable. Having your pet examined annually (at least) will help to detect and prevent problems. Always use good hygiene around pet waste and be sure to feed your pet a quality diet. When possible, it is also advisable to limit your pet’s contact with wildlife.

If you have concerns about zoonotic disease or think that your pet potentially could be sick, please let us know. We are happy to help keep both your pet and your family safe.