4 Diseases You Can Catch From Your Pet

Pets are a valuable addition to their owner’s life and provide numerous health benefits, but they can also transmit certain diseases. Our team at Ambleside Animal Hospital wants to provide information about diseases you can catch from your pet to help ensure you and your family remain healthy.

You can catch rabies from your pet

Rabies is a viral disease that causes progressive brain and spinal cord inflammation. Factors you should know about rabies include:

  • Transmission — Transmission typically occurs through an infected animal’s bite. The animals most likely to transmit rabies in Canada include bats, skunks, and foxes.
  • Incubation period — The incubation period can vary from 10 days to one year, but two weeks to four months is typical. The bite site, the bite severity, and the viral amount injected affect the incubation period. Once signs appear, death usually occurs in 2 to 10 days.
  • Signs in pets — Pets signs can vary, but include fearfulness, aggression, excessive drooling, difficulty swallowing, incoordination, paralysis, and seizures.
  • Symptoms in humans — Initial symptoms, such as fever and headache, are nonspecific, but then include anxiety, confusion, paranoia, hallucinations, difficulty swallowing, delirium, and coma, as the disease progresses.
  • Diagnosis — The only way to definitively diagnose rabies is to test the affected pet’s brain.
  • Treatment — No treatment is available, but a rabies vaccine given soon after the rabid bite can prevent disease in pets. Humans can receive rabies postexposure prophylaxis (PEP), which involves administering human rabies immune globulin and the rabies vaccine on the day of exposure, plus on days 3, 7, and 14.
  • Prevention — Rabies vaccinations are highly effective at disease prevention.

You can catch leptospirosis from your pet

Leptospirosis is caused by a bacterial infection and occurs most commonly in warm climates with a high annual rainfall. Factors you should know about leptospirosis include:

  • Transmission — Transmission occurs when pets contact soil, water, food, or bedding contaminated by infected urine, through an infected animal’s bite, and by eating infected tissues.
  • Incubation period — The incubation period is 2 to 30 days, but most signs start 5 to 14 days after exposure.
  • Signs in pets — Signs include fever, muscle tenderness, lethargy, increased thirst and urination, vomiting, diarrhea, and jaundice.
  • Symptoms in humans — Symptoms include fever, severe headache, sore muscles, chills, vomiting, and red eyes.
  • Diagnosis — The deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, which detects Leptospira DNA in whole blood or urine, and the microscopic agglutination test (MAT), which detects antibodies against the bacteria in blood, are most commonly used to diagnose leptospirosis.
  • Treatment — Antibiotics are usually effective, but supportive treatments may also be needed if liver or kidney damage is present.
  • Prevention — A leptospirosis vaccine is available for dogs, and our veterinary professionals can determine if this vaccine can benefit your pet. You can also protect your pet from leptospirosis by preventing them from drinking from natural water sources, and ensuring they don’t eat small mammals or carcasses.

You can catch toxoplasmosis from your pet

Toxoplasmosis is caused by the Toxoplasma gondii parasite. Factors you should know about toxoplasmosis include:

  • Transmission — Cats are definitive hosts for Toxoplasma gondii, which means the parasite needs them to complete their life cycle. The cat becomes infected when they eat an infected bird or small mammal, passes the parasite in an oocyst form in their feces, and infects other animals and people who ingest the oocysts. Pregnant women can also pass the infection to their unborn child.
  • Incubation period — The incubation period is 5 to 23 days.
  • Signs in pets — Many pets don’t show signs, but immunocompromised pets’ signs can include fever, diarrhea, cough, difficulty breathing, and seizures.
  • Symptoms in humans — Healthy people who are infected often have no symptoms. Pregnant women can miscarry, or their child may be born with mental disabilities, seizures, and vision problems. Immunocompromised people’s symptoms can include fever, confusion, headache, nausea, incoordination, and seizures.
  • Diagnosis — Diagnosis is typically made by measuring the body’s immune response to the parasite.
  • Treatment — Most pets and people don’t require treatment, but when necessary, antibiotics are used to control the infection.
  • Prevention — To prevent toxoplasmosis, ensure your cat doesn’t eat birds or small mammals, and practice good hygiene when cleaning their litter box.

You can catch brucellosis from your pet

Brucellosis is an infectious disease caused by the bacterial genus Brucella. Factors you should know about brucellosis include:

  • Transmission — Transmission in pets usually occurs by contacting infected bodily fluids. Humans most commonly are infected by eating undercooked meat, or consuming unpasteurized dairy products, and are at risk if they breed their pet.
  • Incubation period — The incubation period is usually two to four weeks.
  • Signs in pets — Brucellosis in pets typically causes reproductive problems such as infertility and abortions.
  • Symptoms in humans — Symptoms in humans include fever, lethargy, headache, joint and muscle pain, heart swelling, and neurological symptoms.
  • Diagnosis — Blood tests, including the rapid slide agglutination test (RAST) and an agar gel immunodiffusion test (AGID) are used to diagnose brucellosis.
  • Treatment — Antibiotics are used to treat brucellosis, but pets may shed the bacteria intermittently for the rest of their life.
  • Prevention — Pets should be screened for brucellosis before breeding, and good hygiene should be practiced when handling breeding pets, newborn pets, and aborted fetuses.

Humans rarely catch a disease from a pet, and pet ownership benefits far outway the risks. If you would like your pet vaccinated for rabies or leptospirosis, contact our team at Ambleside Animal Hospital, so we can ensure you and your pet are protected.