Pets are the ultimate givers of unconditional love and affection. They'll snuggle and kiss you all you want, so it's up to you to put the brakes on when it gets to be too much. It's also up to you to keep your pets vaccinated and healthy, because just like humans pass germs to each other, pets can pass on diseases to humans with the right interactions. If your husband has a cold, you're likely to stay away from close contact with him. The problem with pet illnesses is that they can't tell you when they're sick. Fortunately, it's fairly simple to prevent and treat most illnesses you may get from your pet.
1. Ringworm: Extremely Contagious Fungal Infection
Ringworm is a fungal infection that can easily be passed to owner from pet. Even without a host, ringworm can remain alive for several months, where it can easily be picked up by a pet and passed on to a family member. Prevention of ringworm is essential, but if you notice hair loss patches and lesions on the skin of your pet that have a red center, treatment becomes your next step. Symptoms are similar for ringworm in people, with the most common sign being circular red patches on the surface of the skin.
Never share grooming tools or blankets with other pet owners until they have been washed, and wash your pet's bedding once or twice a month in hot water.
Once ringworm is present, the area must be treated with an oral medication or prescription ointment for both pets and owners.
2. Roundworm: Internal Parasites Common in Kitties
Roundworms are common in cats and can be up to four inches long and look just like dinner – that is, if you're eating spaghetti noodles. Older cats most often catch ringworm from eating infected rodents, although ringworm can be passed onto kittens from a mother's milk if the mother is also infected. Each year, close to 10,000 children are reported as being infected with roundworm. In pets, symptoms include diarrhea or constipation (strange, I know), coughing, bloody stool, vomiting, or stool with actual worms in it. Roundworm in humans is exhibited with shortness of breath, a cough, abdominal pain, and again, blood in the stool.
Keep your cats indoors as much as possible and make sure to wash your hands after handling the litter box. Spicy or bitter foods like figs, olives and ginger have also been shown to hold off the infection of a roundworm.
Once you've got a problem with roundworm, it's necessary for both pets and people to be treated with antiparasitic drugs that you can get with a prescription.
3. Hookworms: Filthy Bloodsuckers
These filthy little bloodsuckers can cause blood loss that is potentially life threatening in puppies. They eat by sucking on the intestinal lining of dogs, and can be transferred to humans through the eggs found in pet feces. Symptoms of hookworms in pets include weight loss and diarrhea. Although humans rarely exhibit symptoms, they may have wheezing, a cough, anemia, stomach pains, or an extreme loss of appetite.
Because hookworm is passed through the eggs in pet feces, it's recommended that pet feces always be cleaned up from the yard, and that you wash your hands after cleaning up one of Spot's accidents.
Again, pets and people alike need antiparasitic drugs to treat hookworm.
4. Giardia: Tiny Parasite Found in Water
Giardia is a single-cell organism that is transferred through water in rivers, streams and lakes, and is found more often in dogs than cats. Both humans and pets are likely to have diarrhea when Giardia is present.
Carry clean drinking water for your pet to drink when walking or hiking. Remember to ALWAYS wash your hands after coming in contact with pet feces.
Correct treatment for a pet with Giardia should be discussed with your vet, but people are generally given antiparasitic meds.
5. Campylobacter: Diarrhea-Inducing Critters
Campylobacter is passed to humans by puppies, kittens, ferrets, rabbits, horses and birds. In the US, Campylobacter is high on the list of diarrhea-inducing diseases. And you guessed it: the most common symptom of Campylobacter is – wait for it – diarrhea.
Lay off the kissing and snuggling. Once your pet has recovered, you should still be washing your hands every time you hold them, as they can continue to shed bacteria for up to two months if the condition is not treated.
People with campylobacter are sometimes given meds and should always stay hydrated, but are likely to recover without too much treatment. Pets with campylobacter should be taken right to the vet for treatment.
6. Salmonella: Spreading the Love, 1 Reptile at a Time
If you're one of those strange people who love reptiles, you may be shocked to find out that salmonella is harbored by 77-90% of reptiles. Sweet little baby chicks can also make you sick with this nasty germ. Chicks and reptiles infected with Salmonella don't often show symptoms, but people will have a fever, vomiting, headache, abdominal pain and nausea.
ALWAYS wash you hands after handling your reptiles. Always wash your tank outside or in the bathtub, NEVER in the kitchen sink. If you do your tank washing indoors, disinfect your bathtub afterwards.
The most serious cases of Salmonella may require hospitalization, but for the most part, humans will recover on their own.
7. Tapeworms: Sensing a Theme Here
Tapeworms are easily preventable if you always make sure you, and particularly your children, wash your hands before they come in contact with your mouth. Tapeworms are easily treated, but definitely not fun to have. If you notice your pet dragging their rear across the floor, or notice long worms or rice-like pieces in pet vomit or stool, your pet likely has a tapeworm. Humans will have rice-like pieces in their stool when a tapeworm is present.
Treat your pets for fleas regularly. If you accidentally ingest a flea that is infected with larvae from a tapeworm (yuck) it can develop into a real life tapeworm problem.
Both people and pets should take anti-worm medications for tapeworms.
8. Cat Scratch Disease: Angry Scratchy Cats
According to the CDC, close to 40% of cats will be carriers of this disease at some point. Bartonella germs are passed when your cat shows you a little love like only cats know how to do: with a little scratch. Pets who are regularly infected with fleas or ticks are more susceptible, and if your pet has Bartonella, you'll notice swollen lymph nodes and fatigue. Humans may have red, small bumps or painful, swollen lymph nodes near the area of a scratch or bite, headache, joint pain, weight loss, skin disorders, or fever.
Don't play rough with your kittens, because, let's face it: they'll always win. Keep their nails short and just in case you needed to be reminded, don't allow your cat to lick any open wounds you may have.
Antibiotics are often prescribed in people who suffer from a weakened immune system, but this disease will usually clear up on its own.
9. Bubonic Plague: Rare but Deadly
The Bubonic Plague killed around 25 million people in the Middle Ages, and while incredibly rare now, can still be deadly. The CDC reports only around seven cases each year in humans. Pets will exhibit signs such as inflammation, fever, and painful and swollen lymph nodes. Humans will have chills, weakness, a sudden fever, and painful or swollen lymph nodes.
Always treat your pets for fleas.
Antibiotics are used to treat both pets and people with Bubonic Plague.
10. Toxoplasmosis: Another Mean Kitty Disease
Toxoplasmosis is most dangerous for a woman who is newly infected while she is pregnant or just before becoming pregnant, and can cause developmental and eye problems in the unborn child. Cats are often infected after eating raw prey, and then may transfer the disease to people. Although Toxoplasmosis may cause flu-like symptoms in humans, there is often no sign of the disease. Cats can develop immunity to the disease, but vulnerable kittens may have diarrhea or damage to the liver, lungs, or nervous system.
Stop your cats from hunting outside (or just feed them), and, yep, you got it: wash your hands after handling the litter box. Don't let your cats go potty in your garden or your sandbox.
Drugs like sulfadiazine and pyrimethamine are used to treat Toxoplasmosis, and high-risk women should always ask their doctor for a test.
11. Rabies: Old Yeller Revisited
Rabies is rare in the US, but is fatal by the time symptoms appear. Because of this, in order to keep your pets alive, prevention becomes a necessity. Humans with rabies will have flu-like symptoms, headache, discomfort, anxiety, confusion, hallucinations, agitation and general weakness. Animals with rabies will have severe behavior changes, may be more sensitive to light, touch and sound, may hide in dark places, foam at the mouth, stagger, eat less, have seizures, or may die suddenly.
Vaccination by using your state's guidelines and taking your pet to the vet regularly. Don't allow your pets to socialize with wild animals. Inform your doctor if you have been scratched or bitten by an unknown animal.
Visit your doctor immediately. Unvaccinated pets that exhibit signs of rabies may be euthanized, while vaccinated ones may require a booster shot.