A Pet Owner’s Guide to Zoonotic Diseases

A zoonosis is a disease that can be transmitted to humans by other species. While zoonotic diseases are a concern for anyone, pet owners often have added risks. Thankfully, there are many precautions that can be taken to minimize these risks, as well as encourage the health of family member pets.

Common Zoonotic Diseases

One of the most widely recognized and feared zoonotic diseases is rabies. However, while rabies still exists throughout the world, only a few human cases are recorded in the United States each year due to our vigilance with vaccinations.

Keep reading to learn more about other more prevalent zoonoses.

Lyme Disease and Tick-Borne Illnesses

Ticks carry an array of illnesses, one of the more serious being Lyme disease. Largely attributed to global warming, ticks and the diseases they carry have been on the rise, as they are now able to survive and lay their eggs year-round.

Of the illnesses carried, Lyme disease is the most common, producing flu-like symptoms which can result in various chronic conditions. An estimated 10-15% of dogs infected with Lyme disease develop fever, joint pain, lameness, and swelling of the lymph nodes.

In our region, there are several species of ticks that carry Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, ehrlichiosis, and anaplasmosis.

Because of the high number of tick-borne diseases diagnosed each year, we strongly urge all pet owners to consider a monthly flea and tick control. This is the most effective form of protection for pets.


Toxoplasmosis is caused by a single-cell parasite which is commonly found in rodents. Among pets, outdoor cats contract this parasite in greater numbers. Toxoplasmosis can also be found in raw meat.

While healthy people and animals experience only mild or no symptoms, it’s particularly dangerous for those with compromised immunity and pregnant women.

To avoid toxoplasmosis, always wear gloves when changing the litter or handling meat, wash your hands thoroughly, and prevent your cat from hunting.


This illness is caused by the bacterium leptospira and can be transmitted to dogs by wild animals through infected water and soil. Infection in people can cause flu-like symptoms and can sometimes result in liver or kidney damage. Canines may exhibit fever, a reluctance to move, increased thirst, changes in the frequency of urination, dehydration, vomiting, diarrhea, and loss of appetite.

Dogs who spend a lot of time outdoors or in natural areas are at a greater risk. We recommend vaccinating your canine against Leptospirosis in cases where contact is more likely.


Roundworms are found in most puppies, as they are passed on from the mother. The eggs of roundworms can infect humans, particularly young children, through contact with the puppy’s stool. Because of this, annual screening and subsequent dewormings are essential, as well as encouraging all family members to wash their hands after handling a puppy.

Protect Your Pet and Your Family

While we’ve touched on some zoonotic diseases, there are many others we encourage you to learn about and become more familiar with how to protect your pet and loved ones.

The important thing to remember is that prevention is key. This means maintaining your pet’s annual vaccination and monthly parasite preventives, as well as routine wellness exams. By keeping your pet in good health, you’re also helping to protect everyone in the family.

For additional information about zoonotic diseases and your pet, please contact us.