Posted October 13, 2016
pet owners are walking in the park, going on a road trip, or even
just lying in bed, spending time with four-legged friends is a part
of daily life. However, spending time with pets comes with the
responsibility of keeping them healthy. Regular veterinarian
checkups is important, especially in helping to prevent pets from
becoming sick or infected with diseases—including zoonotic
diseases, which can be transmitted to people.
Dr. Angela Arenas, assistant professor at the Texas A&M
College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, explained
what zoonotic diseases are and how they are transmitted. “A
zoonotic disease is an infectious disease that can be transmitted
between animals and humans,” she said. “Oral-fecal route is a
common route of infection. For example, a zoonotic disease can be
spread when a human has touched something contaminated with an
infected pet’s fecal material, and then they accidentally
touch their mouth. Additionally, vegetables that have not been
washed appropriately and have been contaminated with fecal material
is another example of an oral-fecal route of infection.”
Arenas said sandboxes for children could also be a potential
source of zoonotic infection, since cats may use the sandbox as a
litter box. If children are playing in the backyard where
infected pets defecate, this could also be a potential source of a
Common zoonotic diseases can spread through parasites and
fungal, bacterial, and viral infections, Arenas said. Examples of
parasitic zoonotic diseases include hookworms and roundworms.
Ringworm, a fungal infection that is often misunderstood as a
parasite, is also a zoonotic disease. Other examples of zoonotic
diseases include Salmonella, a bacterium that often causes
food poisoning, and rabies, a viral infection.
In general, any abnormalities in your pet’s behavior, diet, and
fecal routine should be reported to your veterinarian, Arenas said.
If irregular behaviors persist, such as fatigue, loss of appetite,
and frequent diarrhea, your veterinarian should be notified
immediately to help your pet return to its healthy routine.
However, it is important to remember that irregular behavior
does not mean your pet has a zoonotic disease; but a check-up at
the veterinarian could help properly diagnose your pet—whether they
have a zoonotic disease or not.
Additionally, if you or other members of the household notice a
change in personal health, contact your health care provider.
To help you and your family stay healthy, be sure to thoroughly
wash hands and vegetables before eating, cover your children’s’
sandbox when it is not in use, and if bitten by a dog, seek help
with your medical professional. To keep your pet healthy, ensure
your pet is receiving routine veterinary care and vaccinations. Be
sure to ask your veterinarian about a flea and tick prevention plan
Arenas encouraged pet owners to become familiar with some of the
common types of zoonotic diseases, especially within their area.
Knowing the signs of these diseases and providing pets with routine
veterinary care can reduce the risk of zoonotic diseases in your
household and keep you and your pets healthy.
Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine
& Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be
viewed on the web at vetmed.tamu.edu/pet-talk. Suggestions for
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