Zoonotic Disease Wrap-Up – Is Your Pet Protected?


For this week’s blog, we decided to take a break from our Allergy Series to wrap up our September ‘Paws to Protect’ topic: Zoonotic Diseases. Lawndale Veterinary Hospital believes that educating our community about zoonotic diseases can help raise awareness and minimize risk. Gaining a better understanding of the ways you as pet owners can ‘Paws to Protect’ your pet from certain zoonotic diseases will help keep your pets safe and healthy.

While there are many conditions and diseases that pets can develop that are not zoonotic, there are some diseases that can be transmitted between animals and humans. Depending on the disease, transmission might occur through exposure to the saliva, blood, urine or feces of an infected animal, through a vector (e.g. tick, mosquito, flea), or through consumption of a contaminated food or drink. Utilizing common sense and following basic hygiene principles can certainly help minimize risk of some exposures (e.g., wash hands after handling anything pet-related; prevent bites from mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas; avoid raw meat diets; etc.). Keeping your pet up-to-date on wellness care is also a critical step in protecting your pet.

Take a look at all the aspects of wellness care that can either minimize your pet’s risk of certain zoonotic diseases, or help to catch the problem early:

  • Wellness Exam: During your pet’s physical examination, our doctors will carefully examine your pet for any external signs of problems. Additionally, the historical information you provide during the exam might also give clues regarding the overall health of your pet.
  • Vaccinations: There are several vaccinations available to help protect against certain zoonotic diseases:
    • Rabies (dogs and cats): Rabies is a deadly viral disease that can be transmitted between animals and people. Rabies can be prevented in dogs and cats by keeping them vaccinated. And remember, North Carolina state law requires that all dogs and cats must be vaccinated against rabies. Yesterday, our rabies vaccine clinic helped us to protect 44 more dogs and cats in honor of World Rabies Day!
    • Leptospirosis (dogs): Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease typically transmitted through the urine of infected animals. Wildlife populations serve as the reservoir for the disease. Infection can cause liver failure, kidney failure, or even death.
    • Lyme Disease (dogs): Lyme disease is transmitted when an infected tick takes a blood meal from an animal. Acute symptoms could include things such as fever, lameness, swollen joints, enlarged lymph nodes, and malaise. Chronic consequences can include polyarthritis or even kidney failure.
    • Bordetella bronchiseptica (dogs): This is one of the causative agents of Kennel Cough. Transmission to humans is uncommon, but potential exists, especially in immunocompromised individuals.
  • Preventive deworming: Pets who are receiving monthly heartworm prevention are also typically being dewormed for some common intestinal parasites that can be zoonotic. For example, roundworms and hookworms are two of the more common intestinal parasites that can be zoonotic. Sentinel (for dogs) and Revolution (for cats) will deworm for these parasites.
  • Flea and tick control: Utilizing flea and tick prevention not only prevents your dog or cat from developing infestations with these nuisance parasites. It also means you are protecting your dog or cat from the diseases these parasites can transmit.
  • Fecal testing: Annually screening asymptomatic dogs and cats for intestinal parasites can help us identify and treat potentially zoonotic parasitic infections early.
  • 4DX testing: This is a combination SNAP test used in our clinic that screens for heartworm infection, as well as exposure to several different tick-borne diseases (Borrelia burgdorferi (causative agent of Lyme disease), Ehrlichia canis, Ehrlichia ewingii, Anaplasma phagocytophilum, Anaplasma platys). Early identification of exposure to a tick-borne disease can lead to earlier treatment and more successful outcomes.

Is your pet up-to-date on all these aspects of wellness care? If not, schedule an appointment so we can help you ‘Paws to Protect’ against zoonotic diseases!

Author: Dr. C. Noureddine, DVM, MS