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Dogs + Zoonosis & Human Health

  • Rabies is one of the most devastating viral diseases affecting mammals, including dogs and humans. It is a fatal disease caused by infection with the rabies virus. Rabies virus is found throughout the world, including North America, Central and South America, Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and some parts of Europe. Following a bite from a rabid animal, the disease progresses in stages. Dumb rabies is the more common form in dogs. There is progressive paralysis involving the limbs, distortion of the face and a similar difficulty in swallowing. Vaccination is the cornerstone of rabies prevention.

  • Ringworm infections in cats are caused by a fungus, not a worm. They can be easily recognized, though definitive testing by fungal culture is recommended. Ringworm is highly contagious and can be spread between animals and from animals to people. The clinical signs, diagnosis, treatment, and risks are explained in this handout.

  • Roundworms are the most common gastrointestinal worm found in dogs and can also be transmitted to people. They are of most concern to puppies when present in large numbers, causing stunted growth, a pot-bellied appearance, and recurrent diarrhea. Diagnostic testing, treatment, and preventive measures are explained in this handout.

  • Sarcoptic mange, also known as scabies, is caused by a parasitic mite that burrows just beneath the surface of the skin. The presence of the sarcoptic mite causes intense itching; an affected dog will constantly chew and scratch his skin. Sarcoptic mange is highly contagious to other dogs and humans.

  • H1N1 influenza virus emerged in pigs as a genetic sharing of DNA from both human and swine influenza viruses. It caused a deadly pandemic in 2009 and continues to be an important cause of illness today. Pets including cats and dogs can be infected from their owners and become ill. It is not yet thought to transfer from pets to humans. Because influenza viruses appear to be capable of swapping genes, there is potential for new variants of influenza viruses to be generated at any time leading to another pandemic of severe disease in humans and other animals. Good hygiene and exposure restriction should be taken immediately if there is any sign of influenza-like infection to restrict spread between humans and between humans and their pets or domestic animals.

  • 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 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.