by: Dr. Craig A. Maxwell
When you’re trying to prevent a communicable disease, you’re more likely to avoid a sick human than a sick pet. However, studies have shown that diseases caused by animals have just as much, if not more, of a negative impact on your health.
My family and I have always had pets. We adopt them from shelters or they “adopt” us by showing up on our doorstep! These wonderful members of our family have always brought joy in our lives but if we weren’t careful, they could easily make us sick.
Perhaps the only diseases caused by animals you are familiar with are rabies and cat scratch fever. You need to know there are many more.
It is important to learn more about them, as they are largely avoidable and preventable.
11 Communicable Diseases That Easily Spread from Pets to Humans
Communicable diseases that spread from pets to humans are called zoonoses (pronounced “zoh-uh-NOH-sis”).
Here are the 10 most common diseases you can get from pets:
Rabies is a viral disease that destroys the central nervous system causing symptoms such as fever, chills, headache, partial paralysis, extreme anxiety and agitation, hyper-salivation, and difficulty swallowing. Though most documented rabies cases come from wild animals such as infected raccoon and fox, 8-10 percent of cases come from domesticated animals.
2. Gastrointestinal Worms and Parasites
Worms and parasites account for dozens of unexplained and seemingly unconnected symptoms in both animals and humans.
- Toxoplasma Gondii
This parasitic disease affects domestic cats but it can affect other warm-blooded animals as well. This protozoan is commonly passed through touching contaminated fecal matter. Symptoms include fever, shortness of breath, fatigue, seizures, and coordination difficulties.
Roundworm is passed from animal to human through fecal contact. Symptoms of this highly infectious disease include abdominal pain and discomfort, chronic diarrhea, sudden weight loss, multiple food and chemical allergies, emotional distress, fever, and inability to gain weight.
Though infection from a tapeworm is less likely than developing ringworm or roundworm it can happen, especially to your children. Tapeworm is transmitted through fleas and they can often end up in your child’s mouth while he or she plays with an infected dog or cat.
The scary thing about tapeworms is how large they can become. Growing, feeding, and nesting in your digestive system, these things can grow longer than 12 feet!
The most common symptom of tapeworm infection is chronic gastrointestinal upset. If the infection moves outside of the digestive system, fever, bacterial infection, headaches, seizures, and vision loss may result.
Hookworm is often picked up when you step barefoot on a patch of dirt your dog or cat has soiled in. Symptoms of hookworm include foot rash, anemia, diarrhea with bloody stool, and child developmental issues.
3. Cat Scratch Fever
This bacterial disease is easily communicable between animals and humans. If a cat infected with the Bartonella henselae scratches you, you may develop cat scratch disease (CSD). Symptoms include lymph node swelling, fever, headache, fatigue, and lack of appetite.
Pet owners who feed their dogs or cats raw meat are at risk for giving their pets salmonella infection. This infection may also be picked up by your pet if they spend much time outdoors and catch and consume wildlife, which may be infected with salmonella. This infection can pass from animal to human if you come into contact with your pet’s feces. Symptoms develop within 12-24 hours and include fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle pains, abdominal pain, and bloody diarrhea.
5. Strep Throat
Strep throat is considered a mutually-communicable disease because it easily passes from human to animal and vice versa. Symptoms of strep throat include a sore throat that comes on very quickly, red tonsils with white patches and pus, swollen lymph nodes, headaches, nausea, vomiting, body aches, and skin rash. Kissing, food sharing, and letting your pet lick your face can cause strep throat to be passed back and forth.
6. Psittacosis (Parrot Fever)
Let’s not forget our feathered friends! My family and I have had a parrot, ducks and parakeets as pets over the years.
Psittacosis is an infection caused by Chlamydophila psittaci, a type of bacteria found in the droppings and nasal secretions of infected birds, including parakeets, macaws, cockatiels, ducks, sparrows, hens and galls. Birds often do not show symptoms. The bacteria may be inhaled or ingested by humans. Symptoms include blood-tinged sputum, dry cough, fatigue, fever, chills, headache, joint aches and shortness of breath.
This bacterial disease infects your pet when he comes into contact with water which has been contaminated with infected urine, as this is carried by many animals in the wild. Leptospirosis is caused by a spirochaete bacterium called Leptospira. There are five serotypes in the U.S. and Canada. Human symptoms of leptospirosis range from none (some humans are carriers as well) to severe, including high fever, chills, aches, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and skin rash. If this infection goes untreated, it can lead to kidney failure, respiratory distress, meningitis, and death.
This disease is caused by a bacteria known as Campylobacter. There are several strains. The one which is sometimes carried by dogs and cats is called Campylobacter upsaliensis. Campylobacter jejuni and Campylobacter coli are often carried by cattle, hogs, chicken and turkeys.
Campylobacteriosis is one of the most common causes of infectious diarrhea. Symptoms usually last 2-5 days and include abdominal cramping, diarrhea, fever, and vomiting.
9. Q fever
The Q in Q fever stands for “query” as it was considered a mystery illness when it was first discovered. This highly communicable disease is more common in farm workers and those who keep livestock as domestic pets. Q fever is transferred through inhalation and symptoms include very high fevers (104-105 degrees), severe headache, night sweats, chills, fatigue, chest pain, non-productive cough, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and myalgia.
Believe it or not the bubonic plague still exists and your pet could be a carrier, although it is rare. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates at least 10 humans die from plague each year. Flea bites, rodent bites, and bites from domestic animals spread this deadly disease. Symptoms of bubonic plague in humans include very high fever, swollen lymph nodes, chills, headaches, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Ringworm (tinea corporis) is a highly infectious communicable disease that is often passed back and forth between animals and humans. This fungal infection causes a tell-tale red circular rash on the skin.
Athlete’s foot (tinea pedis), nail fungus (tinea unguium),jock itch (tinea cruris), and ringworm of the scalp (tinea capitis) are close relatives to this common disease.
Prevent Diseases from Pets
Though the diseases presented here are pretty scary to think about, there’s no reason you or your family should be in danger if you follow proper precautions. Never handle fecal matter or urine without gloves. Also, avoid letting your animal lick you in the face or on any open wounds.
To prevent diseases from pets spreading in your household, be sure to wash your hands before cooking or preparing food, especially after you have just handled your pet. Avoid rough play with cats as this could result in a bite or scratch that may transmit disease.
If you do receive a bite or scratch from your pet, wash the area thoroughly. See your physician, or visit an urgent care or ER if you have a deep puncture wound. There the wound can be properly irrigated, and antibiotics may be given for prevention of infection.
Of course, if you suspect you have been exposed to rabies or develop some of the severe symptoms mentioned above, seek medical attention right away.
Never let your pet drink from a toilet bowl or eat feces. If you have a dog that eats his own feces, you can use Adolph’s meat tenderizer in his food to give it a bitter flavor. Alternatively, you can put hot sauce on the feces immediately after elimination to discourage the practice.
I also strongly encourage all pet owners to be sure their animal is up-to-date with their vaccinations and check-ups. If your pets are given oral or topical medication to treat or prevent illness, it’s important you follow protocol as directed to ensure the continued health of both you and your pet. Proper hygiene is important as well. If you are uncomfortable with or unfamiliar how to groom your pet, take him to a trained groomer regularly.
Don’t forget dental care. Dogs and cats need their teeth professionally cleaned and scaled on a regular basis. How often depends on the type of pet, the breed, your pet’s diet, age and overall health. Your veterinarian will know by visually inspecting your pet’s teeth.
Diagnosing Diseases Caused by Animals
Millions of people live with mystery symptoms they can’t quite put their finger on. Oftentimes, diseases communicated from an animal to a human cause unexplained and chronic ailments that won’t respond to conventional medicine.
If your pet is infected with parasites, you may have them too, which could be responsible for neurological or gastrointestinal problems you may be facing.
Pets may even inadvertently cause Lyme disease by carrying ticks home on their bodies, which they transfer to you.
- Doctor’s Data Comprehensive Stool Analysis x 3 DD Kit This test evaluates you for parasitic infections, bacterial infections, leaky gut syndrome, and candida while measuring dysbiotic bacteria, digestive enzymes, digestion capability, and even a count of all probiotics!
- Lyme Disease Western Blot Blood Test – Undiagnosed Lyme disease is a common cause of mysterious ailments. This is why it’s important to use the most comprehensive test to detect it. The Western Blot Blood Test provides IgM and IgG Western blot results.
Boost Your Immune System
Poor diet, stress and nutritional deficiencies are often the most common causes of a weakened immune system, which will leave anyone more vulnerable to illness. This is why I recommend three very important supplements to boost your immune system.
These supplements are:
- Diamond Nutritional’s Vitamin D3 5,000 IU
Vitamin D deficiency is the number one vitamin deficiency in the United States and Canada, causing an epidemic of autoimmune disease and other chronic ailments, as well as a lowered immune system. Unfortunately, few conventional doctors check vitamin D3 levels or suggest their patient add a supplement. Considering that the deficiency rate is estimated at 85%, it is important to not only have your level checked, but supplement if needed.
Those physicians who do suggest a supplement often prescribe this vitamin in doses of 400 IU or less. This is not enough. My decades of experience working with patients with chronic illness lead me to understand that much higher doses are needed to be effective, and lab testing supports this. In my opinion, serum 25-hydroxy vitamin-D levels need to be between 40-100 ng./ml.
This is why I created Diamond Nutritional’s Vitamin D3 5,000 IU. This formula contains vitamin D3 which is 100% bioavailable to your body for easy absorption and quality immune system support.
Virtually any blood test you wish may be ordered at a deeply discounted price, and without a doctor’s order, through our website by clicking on the Direct Labs logo at www.AskDrMaxwell.com.
The results are sent directly to you.
- Diamond Nutritional’s Probiotic Formula
I recommend a high-quality probiotic formula to nearly every one of my patients. Poor digestion causes malabsorption of nutrients, which can, in turn, leave you vulnerable to a wide variety of diseases and ailments. The right probiotics also boost your immune system and help you fight off pathogenic bacteria.
Since most commercial probiotics don’t contain enough live active cultures to improve your digestion and immunity, I created Diamond Nutritional’s Probiotic Formula. My formula contains 25 billion live active cultures in a shelf-stable formula that survives its journey through your gut so it can get to your lower intestines for improved immune system health.
- Diamond Nutritional’s Foundation Vitamins
This unique formulation is designed to improve your immune system by boosting many of the daily vitamins and minerals we all need. It is available in a chewable children’s formula as well.
Your pets are part of the family. Do your part by ensuring they receive yearly veterinary care so they don’t pass on any communicable diseases to you. If you suspect you’ve contracted a chronic or mystery illness from your pet and have not been able to find answers, use our Direct Labs tests to determine what kind of infection you may have so you know exactly how to treat it and prevent it in the future. If you need help or have questions, I’m always available for private consultations.