Part 2: Those weird and wonderful diseases your pet can give you.

I don’t believe in scare tactics. I believe in science and I believe knowledge is GOLD. With knowledge you can make informed decisions.

If you followed the previous blog, you will know that my message is straightforward: if you do some pretty simple things you can keep your family, four-legged included, free of most parasites.

That also goes for infectious diseases transmissible from animals to people. It is really not so different when we speak of infectious diseases that can be transmitted from dogs and cats to people. We have come a LONG way in the past 100 years at reducing the incidence of these diseases in our population. Public health professionals have done this by learning more about the diseases, the way they work, how they are transmitted, etc. As we have seen in human medicine, the mass vaccination of dogs and cats has led to drastic reductions in disease incidence and in some cases eradication of certain diseases. Some of these diseases are extremely dangerous to people, so we always need to look at the human-animal-environment interface when working to reduce incidence of these zoonotic diseases (diseases that pass from animals to people).  


It would be impossible for me to discuss in detail all these diseases; however I have chosen the infections we deal with the most in Canada:

Ringworm: A fungal skin infection which can be seen in dogs, cats, people, cows, goats, etc. You probably had it as a child and caught it when you went to the petting zoo! It has a very typical appearance in people: a well-delineated, red, raised and sometimes itchy circular lesion with a lighter center. Luckily it is very easy to treat in people with an over-the-counter cream and once you have had it, you will be unlikely to ever get it again because your body builds a resistance. If you know that your dog or cat has the infection, your biggest concern should be how terribly contagious it is to other pets and how difficult it can be to get rid of in some cases, especially with cats.

Dog and Cat Bite Wound Infections: Working in a veterinary hospital, we know full-well the dangers of bite infections. We take it very seriously. Did you know that cat bite wounds are far more likely to lead to infection than dog bites are? This is because their teeth are sharper and tend to cause deeper wounds than dogs. Bite infections are usually caused by bacteria such as Pasteurella spp. (species), Streptococcus spp., and Staphylococcus spp. These bacteria are often carried in the mouth of dogs and cats as part of their normal mouth flora.

A bacteria called Captnocytophaga can lead to extremely serious infections but is VERY rare. Frankly, it is so rare, we barely even learn about it in veterinary school. But last year, it hit the news when a woman in Ottawa sadly lost limbs from a dog bite infection.

Like most things, prevention is key. Check out the quick hints at the bottom of the blog to help reduce infections from dog and cat bites.

Campylobacteriosis: This infection comes from bacteria that are sometimes carried in the intestinal tract of pets such as cats, dogs and birds. In animals and people, Campylobacter most often causes diarrhea and vomiting. You are, however, far more likely to get this yucky bug by eating undercooked meat in restaurants than from your cat or dog, so be sure both to wash your hands and keep your yard free of pet droppings!

Leptospirosis: You have probably heard your veterinarian speak with you about this disease and recommend you vaccinate your dog unnamed-5against it.  This disease is shed in the urine of a variety of animal species, and people can become infected through contact with contaminated water or animals. Your dog could become infected by licking a puddle, playing in leached soil, or smelling another dog’s behind…… Thankfully, the disease in people is generally not very serious; however it can be deadly in your dog (and rarely your cat). And it is found in the city – this is not just a country disease!

Rabies: This is one of those diseases that we rarely talk about anymore. Why? Because we have done such an incredible job at reducing the risk of this deadly disease through mass vaccination of our domestic pets. We are so very fortunate in our country to have easily accessible, effective and affordable vaccines for our pets. This disease still kills 55,000+ people (mostly children) around the world. It is our social responsibility to continue to keep this disease at bay and our children safe. In fact, it is illegal for us NOT to vaccinate our dogs and cats….

My message to you: wash your hands, clean up that poop, cover your litter boxes, and VACCINATE and DEWORM your pets!

Just because we don’t see a disease very often anymore does not mean we should stop vaccinating for it ……. just look at what is happening with children and measles….

 Bite and scratch avoidance:

  • Socialize your dog and learn how to communicate with him in a positive fashion.
  • Know how to handle your pet properly. Many bites and scratches occur because a pet feels threatened or insecure when being handled in a rough manner or otherwise incorrectly.
  • It is particularly important to teach children to be gentle and quiet around pets, and never to approach any animal they don’t know.
  • Always supervise young children when they are around pets.
  • Have your pet examined regularly by a veterinarian. This will help to identify problems earlier that could increase the risk of bites and scratches, such as painful physical conditions or behavioural problems.


  • Immediately wash the wound thoroughly with lots of soap and warm water.
  • If the wound is a bite over a hand, joint, wrist, ankle, implant or genital area, or if the wound is severe (e.g. very deep, torn flesh), consult a physician regarding the need for antimicrobials or other treatment.

Consult a physician for any bite or scratch if you have any of the following:

  • Compromised immune system (e.g. HIV/AIDS, transplant or chemotherapy patients)
  • Chronic swelling in the area that was bitten
  • If you have had your spleen removed
  • If you have or have suffered from liver disease, diabetes, lupus or similar chronic diseases




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