Illustrated Articles

Zoonosis & Human Health

  • Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease of dogs and other mammals that primarily affects the liver or kidneys. The bacteria (Leptospira) that cause leptospirosis thrive in water. Infected or recovered carrier dogs may act as a source of the infection. Antibiotics such as penicillin, ampicillin, and amoxicillin, are reasonably effective against the acute stages of leptospirosis if started early, although most affected dogs require intensive care in the veterinary hospital. This disease can be transmitted to humans.

  • In North America, many parasitic lungworms infect cats. Cats can become infected by swallowing infective stages of parasitic lungworm. The exact means of becoming infected varies according to the life cycle of the particular parasite. Signs can include coughing, heavy breathing, wheezing, sneezing, poor appetite or anorexia, weight loss, fever, enlarged lymph nodes, and ocular or nasal discharge, and may be more prominent in kittens due to their immature immune systems. Although the success rate of treatment depends on the severity of symptoms and the number of parasites present, the prognosis for recovery is generally good.

  • The bacterium that causes Lyme disease can be transmitted to dogs through the bite of an infected tick, most commonly the deer tick (black-legged tick), which is found in the midwestern and eastern United States and throughout Canada. The disease typically causes pain and swelling in the affected dog's joints along with decreased appetite and fever. The kidneys are sometimes affected, in which case the disease is often fatal. Diagnostic testing, treatment, and ways to prevent Lyme disease in your dog, including instructions for tick removal, are explained in this handout.

  • Melioidosis is a bacterial infection that is typically associated with tropical regions. The bacteria that causes melioidosis, Burkholderia pseudomallei, is usually found in soil and water. It is introduced to these areas when it is shed in the milk, feces, urine, or wound drainage of infected animals. In dogs, melioidosis can cause a variety of clinical signs. It mimics a number of other diseases; therefore, it is sometimes referred to as the great imitator. Treatment of melioidosis requires prolonged courses of antibiotics. The organism is resistant to many antibiotics, meaning that specific, expensive antibiotics may be required.

  • The Ebola virus is very contagious and is transmitted through blood, body fluids and tissues, but not through air, water, or food. Ebola affects humans, non-human primates, and is carried by fruit bats. Other species do not appear to be affected although there has been evidence of exposure to the disease in dogs, cats, and other domestic animals. Domestic animals are not believed to transmit the virus; however, there is a risk that they could transmit body fluids such as saliva on their fur to other humans. Any potential exposure to Ebola should be reported to your veterinarian who will contact the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

  • COVID-19 is a human respiratory disease that was initially discovered late in 2019. This disease is caused by a new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, that has not previously been identified in humans. Physical distancing, or social distancing, is one of the most effective strategies available to reduce the spread of COVID-19. While physical distancing, walking your dog is fine as long as you are feeling well and can remain at least 6 feet away from other people. If you have cats, find new ways to play with them indoors. Many veterinary clinics are adjusting their policies to reflect physical distancing guidance related to COVID-19. If your pet needs veterinary care (or if you need to pick up medication, a prescription diet, etc.), call your veterinary hospital first to determine how to proceed.

  • Feline poxvirus is a relative of the human smallpox virus seen mainly in Asia, Europe, and England. It causes skin lesions around the head, neck, and forelimbs, such as ulcerations, scabs, or abscesses. Cats often recover on their own with no further symptoms unless they are immunocompromised. There is no specific treatment or vaccine. Antibiotics may be used to control secondary infections. The virus can be transmitted to humans but can be significantly reduced by basic hygiene precautions.

  • Pyrantel pamoate is given by mouth and is used on and off label to treat intestinal parasites in many species. Give as directed. Side effects are uncommon but may include stomach upset, such as vomiting or diarrhea. Do not use in pets that are allergic to it. If a negative reaction occurs, call your veterinarian.

  • Rabies is a viral disease that can infect all warm-blooded animals, including cats and people, although some species are somewhat naturally resistant to the disease. When signs of rabies occur, it is an almost invariably fatal disease.

  • Rabies is one of the most devastating viral diseases affecting mammals, including dogs and humans. It is a fatal disease caused by infection with the rabies virus. Rabies virus is found throughout the world, including North America, Central and South America, Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and some parts of Europe. Following a bite from a rabid animal, the disease progresses in stages. Dumb rabies is the more common form in dogs. There is progressive paralysis involving the limbs, distortion of the face and a similar difficulty in swallowing. Vaccination is the cornerstone of rabies prevention.