Educational Articles

Zoonosis & Human Health

  • Tapeworms are parasites that infect the gastrointestinal tract of dogs, other animals, and humans. Several types of tapeworms are known to infect pets, but the most common species observed in dogs is Dipylidium caninum, which is transmitted through fleas. Risk factors, clinical signs, treatment, and prevention are explained in this handout. Other, less common types of tapeworms that affect dogs and humans are also covered.

  • Ticks are parasites that feed on the blood of their host and can in turn transmit diseases to your pets or even you. They are prolific breeders and their life cycles can extend through multiple seasons. Prompt removal or use of preventatives limit or prevent the spread of disease, or kill the ticks.

  • **This article has been specifically written for dog walkers and how they can reduce their exposure to COVID-19.** COVID-19 is a new respiratory disease in humans, initially discovered late in 2019. Although all coronaviruses are related, they are not all the same virus; SARS-CoV-2 cannot cause canine coronavirus infection, and vice versa. As a dog walker, it is important to limit direct contact with your clients. People can shed the virus without showing any symptoms of disease, so it is important to practice physical distancing even with clients who appear healthy. It is also important to limit your contact with potentially contaminated items in your clients’ homes, whether they are at home or not. The most important things you can do to minimize your risk of infection, and minimize the risk of transferring infection to your clients, is to be cautious when interacting with clients and when touching anything that could be contaminated. Communicate with your clients regularly during this pandemic. Having information about your clients’ health can help you avoid taking unnecessary risks. Finally, if you develop any signs of COVID-19, including cough, fever, and/or shortness of breath, it is important that you stay home from work.

  • **This article has been specifically written for pet sitters and how they can reduce their exposure to COVID-19.** COVID-19 is a new respiratory disease in humans, initially discovered late in 2019. Although all coronaviruses are related, they are not all the same virus. As a pet sitter, it is important to limit direct contact with your clients. People can shed the virus without showing any symptoms of disease, so it is important to practice physical distancing even with clients who appear healthy. It is also important to limit your contact with potentially contaminated items in your clients’ homes, whether they are at home or not. The most important things you can do to minimize your risk of infection, and minimize the risk of transferring infection to your clients, is to be cautious when interacting with clients and when touching anything that could be contaminated, wear a mask, and maintain at least 6 feet distance from your clients. Communicate with your clients regularly during this pandemic. Having information about your clients’ health can help you avoid taking unnecessary risks. Finally, if you develop any signs of COVID-19, including cough, fever, and/or shortness of breath, it is important that you stay home from work.

  • Tularemia is an infection of the bacteria Francisella tularensis and is most common in rabbits and rodents. Infection in cats occurs from ingestion of an infected animal, contaminated water, or the bite of a blood sucking insect. Tularemia causes acute illness, enlarged lymph nodes, abdominal pain, jaundice, and organ system failure. Diagnosis includes physical exam, baseline bloodwork, and urine tests, as well as paired serum titers. PCR can also be used to identify the bacteria in a blood sample. Treatment requires hospitalization and supportive care including IV fluids and antibiotics. Prognosis is guarded to poor depending on how early treatment is initiated. Tularemia is a reportable zoonotic disease.

  • Tularemia is an infection of the bacteria Francisella tularensis and is most common in rabbits and rodents. Infection in dogs occurs from ingestion of an infected animal, contaminated water, or the bite of a blood sucking insect. Tularemia causes mild illness in healthy dogs. More severe clinical signs include enlarged lymph nodes and draining abscesses. Diagnosis includes physical exam, bloodwork, and urinalysis, as well as paired serum titers. PCR can also be used to identify the bacteria in a blood sample. Treatment includes antibiotics, surgical removal of any draining abscesses and any other supportive warranted by the dog’s condition. Tularemia is a reportable zoonotic disease.

  • Vaccines are necessary to reduce infectious disease-caused illnesses in cats. They work by stimulating the body's immune system to recognize and fight a particular microorganism such as a virus, bacteria, or other infectious organisms. Depending on the disease, the vaccine will help the body prevent infection or lessen the severity of the infection and promote rapid recovery. The American Association of Feline Practitioners has established vaccination guidelines for cats, some of which depend on a cat's lifestyle and where it lives.

  • Veterinarians routinely recommend certain vaccines for all dogs(called core vaccines) whereas others are used more selectively according to the dog's environment and lifestyle. Vaccines work by stimulating the body's immune system to recognize and fight a particular microorganism such as a virus, bacteria, or other infectious organisms. Depending on the disease, the vaccine will help the body prevent infection or lessen the severity of infection and promote rapid recovery. Vaccination will protect the vast majority of dogs but under some circumstances, vaccine breakdowns may occur.

  • The West Nile Virus (WNV) is transmitted by the bite of a mosquito (primarily Culex species) that is infected with the virus. Birds are both susceptible to the virus and can act as a host, though indigenous birds such as owls, hawks, eagles, crows, and jays appear to be most at risk in comparison to pet birds. There is no specific treatment once a bird is infected so prevention is of high importance.

  • Whipworms are intestinal parasites measuring about 1/4 inch (6 mm) in length. They live in the intestinal tract of cats where they can cause severe irritation. Whipworm infection results in watery diarrhea, weight loss, and general debilitation. Fecal testing will not detect every infection. Whipworm infection in cats is rare in North America but cases appear to be rising.

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