We love our animals. There are so many benefits to having a loving pet but there can be a downside too. While the chance of catching a disease from your pet, this occurring is quite low. Just be aware of the diseases that can be passed from dogs and cats to people. Here are a few of the more common ones as described by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Ringworm

Ringworm is a skin and scalp disease caused by fungi. It gets its name from the characteristic ring-like rash on the skin. The disease is spread by touching an infected person or animal. It can also be spread by touching objects or surfaces that had contact with the infection. If infected, people often begin itching four to fourteen days after contact. The rash may be scaly, reddened, and circular. Ringworm on the scalp usually makes a bald patch of scaly skin.

Ringworm infections in people can appear on almost any area of the body. These infections are usually itchy. A ring-shaped rash, redness, scaling, or cracking of the skin may occur. If the infection involves the scalp or beard, hair may fall out. Infected nails become discolored or thick and may possibly crumble.

Roundworm

Toxocara roundworms cause a parasitic disease known as toxocariasis. People, cats and dogs can become infected by swallowing roundworm eggs from the environment. Pets can also become infected as youngsters through their mother’s milk or while in utero. Infected puppies and kittens usually do not seem very sick. Those that do may have mild diarrhea, dehydration, rough coat, and a pot-bellied appearance. In people, children are most often affected with roundworm.

Toxoplasmosis

“Toxoplasmosis is considered to be a leading cause of death attributed to foodborne illness in the United States. More than 30 million men, women, and children in the U.S. carry the Toxoplasma parasite, but very few have symptoms because the immune system usually keeps the parasite from causing illness. However, women newly infected with Toxoplasma during pregnancy and anyone with a compromised immune system should be aware that toxoplasmosis can have severe consequences”, reports Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It is a parasitic disease that can spread to people and animals through contaminated soil, meat or water and from contact with stool from an infected cat. Cats are the main source of infection to other animals but rarely appear sick. Most healthy people who become infected with Toxoplasma show no signs or symptoms.

Cat-Scratch Disease

Cat-scratch disease (CSD) is a bacterial infection spread by cats. The disease spreads when an infected cat licks a person's open wound, or bites or scratches a person hard enough to break the surface of the skin. About three to 14 days after the skin is broken, a mild infection can occur at the site of the scratch or bite. The infected area may appear swollen and red with round, raised lesions and can have pus. The infection can feel warm or painful. A person with CSD may also have a fever, headache, poor appetite, and exhaustion. Later, the person's lymph nodes closest to the original scratch or bite can become swollen, tender, or painful. Seek medical attention if you believe you have cat-scratch disease.

Giardiasis

Giardia is a microscopic parasite that causes the diarrheal illness known as giardiasis. Giardia is found on surfaces or in soil, food, or water that has been contaminated with feces (poop) from infected humans or animals. While the parasite can be spread in different ways, water (drinking water and recreational water) is the most common mode of transmission. Symptoms include diarrhea, greasy stools, and dehydration. People can also have abdominal cramps, nausea, and vomiting. Symptoms can last for 1 to 2 weeks.

Hookworm

Dog and cat hookworms are tiny worms that can spread through contact with contaminated soil or sand. They can also become infected with hookworms through accidentally ingesting the parasite from the environment or through their mother’s milk or colostrum. Hookworm infections in pets can cause anemia, diarrhea, and weight loss. Severe infections can be fatal.

People become infected with hookworms while walking barefoot, kneeling, or sitting on ground contaminated with stool of infected animals. Hookworm larvae enter the top layers of skin and cause an itchy reaction called cutaneous larva migrans. A red squiggly line may appear where the larvae have migrated under the skin. Symptoms usually resolve without medical treatment in 4-6 weeks.

Leptospirosis

It is a bacterial disease of people and animals that is transmitted through contaminated water and urine or other body fluids from an infected animal. It is difficult to detect early stages of leptospirosis in animals, but the disease can lead to kidney and liver failure if left untreated.

People who become infected with leptospirosis might not have any signs of the disease. Others will have nonspecific flu-like signs within 2-7 days after exposure. These symptoms usually resolve without medical treatment but can reappear and lead to more severe disease.

MRSA (Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus)

Staphylococcus aureus is a common type of bacteria that is normally found on the skin of people and animals. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is the same bacterium that has become resistant to some antibiotics. Dogs, cats and other animals often can carry MRSA without being sick, but MRSA can cause a variety of infections, including of the skin, respiratory tract, and urinary tract.

MRSA can be transmitted back and forth between people and animals through direct contact. In people, MRSA most often causes skin infections that can range from mild to severe. If left untreated, MRSA can spread to the bloodstream or lungs and cause life-threatening infections.

There are two forms of the disease in people: ocular larva migrans and visceral larva migrans. Ocular larva migrans happens when the larvae invade the retina (tissue in the eye) and cause inflammation, scarring, and possibly blindness. Visceral larva migrans occurs when the larvae invade parts of the body, such as the liver, lung, or central nervous system.

Any time you suspect a problem, check with your vet before it gets worse.

Animal Care Center in Smyrna, GA, is owned and operated by Otto H. Williams, DVM. The veterinary practice specializes in complete healthcare for cats and dogs and offers services including preventative, surgical and nonsurgical care, internal medicine, grooming and boarding to Cobb County and surrounding cities such as Vinings, Marietta, Mableton and Sandy Springs. Call today at 770.438.2694 or request an appointment.