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Pets and Disease: 5 Ways Your Pet Could Make You Sick

Dog being treated for an infectious disease.
Pet healthcare negligence can lead to infectious diseases for humans. USMC

Prevention is the best medicine for humans and pets. Once a year, pet owners should take their animals in to the vet for a checkup and an update to any needed vaccinations. Baby animals have special needs: Puppies should be vaccinated at eight and 10 weeks and kittens at nine and 12 weeks, with the initial two injections says The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA).

A vaccination for your pet is a vaccination for yourself. Approximately 25 percent of pet owning households in the United States didn't visit the veterinarian in 2011, reports the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). Pet ownership has increased since 2006 but there has been a sharp decline in veterinary care which suggests pet owners are disregarding annual examinations and treatments that will in the long run end up more costly that the initial expense.

The Veterinary Pet Insurance Co. (VPI) reports that the average cost to prevent internal parasites per pet is $29.51 compared to the average cost to treat a pet with internal parasites $179.93.

The top five common diseases that are easily transmitted from pets to humans will not cause you to think twice when it comes to your pet's veterinary care.

1. Rabies

Rabies, a disease that can be passwed between all warm-blooded mammals can be fatal if not treated immediately. The disease is spread through a bite from dogs or cats to humans. The Journal of the America Veterinary Medical Association states that in the past year, 6,940 cases of rabies in animals were reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most people think of dogs when they think of the disease, but in reality, three times more rabid cats were reported than rabid dogs. Statistics show that cat owners were not as likely to visit the vet to administer the shots to their felines.  

Prevention:

Visit your veterinarian and keep your pet up-to-date with rabies vaccinations for cats, dogs, and ferrets. Be sure to spay or neuter your pets and do not feed or water your furry animals outside. Wild or stray animals are attracted to scents and can become permanent visitors.  

2. Cat Scratch Disease

Bartonellosis, commonly known as cat scratch disease (CSD) is a bacterial disease from fleabites. The disease is transmitted if an infected cat bites or scratches a person. CSD is often not found because it is hard to diagnose but researchers say it can cause flulike symptoms and has the potential to damage the heart's valves. In a study published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) the incidence of patients released from hospitals with a diagnosis of CSD who were 18 years or younger was approximately 55 percent, with males who account for 60 percent of those cases. The disease is more prevalent in young male adults.

Prevention:

Do not scratch your cat's belly as you would with a dog because the cat is most likely to scratch you back. Be sure to wash your hands after playing with a cat and be sure to avoid cat saliva to decrease your risk of infection.

3. Toxoplasmosis

Toxoplasmosis is a bacterial infection that is particularly dangerous for pregnant women, because it can cause birth defects for humans. It is initially spread through cat feces and can be transmitted to a human when, for example, a cat owner changes kitty litter. Cats can become infected with the disease if they've eaten infected rodents, birds, or other small animals. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) felines can release millions of parasites in their feces for as long as three weeks after the initial infection.

Prevention:

If you are pregnant, avoid changing the kitty litter and if you must, be sure to wear disposable gloves and wash your hands thoroughly upon completion. Be sure to change the cat litter box daily because the parasite does not become infectious until 1 to 5 days after it is in the cat feces. Lastly, do not allow your cat to walk on the surfaces where you cook especially after the cat has done their business in the litter box.  

4. Lyme Disease.

Although you can't catch Lyme disease from your pet directly, it can be cought from a tick that he or she brought from outside. The disease is caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi according to North Shore Animal League America. The most common tick that carries Lyme disease is deer tick (also called a black-legged tick) that often goes unnoticed due to its grain pepper size. The American Lyme Disease Foundation (ALDF) says the majority of reported cases of the disease are in the Northeastern coast of the United States.

Prevention:

Keep your pet away from areas that are prone to ticks like grass and wooded areas. You can also purchase a repellent product that prevents ticks from coming into contact with an animal, such as Nature's Miracle Pet Block Repellent Spray

5. Roundworm and Hookworm.

Roundworm and hookworm are both parasites that are typically transmitted from cats or dogs to people who come in contact with infected feces. Puppies and kittens are known to be the most susceptible to these intestinal worms. Roundworms are said to compete with pets for food while hookworms live on blood and often cause anemia, according to Human Illnesses.

Prevention:

The American Association of Veterinary Parasitologists (AAVP) and The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have come up with a strategic deworming practice to protect your precious little furry ones. Deworming your cat and dog will prevent them and you from getting worms. Puppies and Kittens should be dewormed at 2, 4, 6 and 8 weeks of age and then again at 12 and 16 weeks. After that initial period, deworming can be done twice a year. For adult cats and dogs, deforming should be done twice a year for life.

Veterinary negligence can lead to a series of health complications for pet owners and their furry ones. However, with the right preventative care most of these top 5 diseases can be avoided all together. Do not delay and act today.

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