Educational Articles

Zoonosis & Human Health

  • Cat bites are puncture wounds that can cause bacterial infections with Pasteurella multocida that can spread within the tissues or into the blood stream. Any bite should be cleaned immediately and assessed by a physician as soon as possible, as antibiotics are frequently needed to treat infection. Your doctor may recommend vaccination with tetanus or rabies prophylaxis. Your doctor will report any bite to the local health department and your cat will have to undergo a quarantine – the length of which depends on their rabies vaccination status.

  • Cat scratch disease (CSD) is caused by the bacteria, Bartonella that is transmitted by cat fleas and other biting insects. Cats act as reservoirs for the bacteria. Humans are exposed to the bacteria through flea feces contaminating skin lesions or their eyes. Signs include fever, lethargy, enlarged lymph nodes, and lesions on the conjunctiva and skin. The disease is usually self-limiting; however, some people will require antibiotics especially if they are immunocompromised. Tests are available for diagnosis in humans as well as in cats. Strict flea control, good hygiene, keeping your cat indoors, and keeping your cat’s nails trimmed are among the most important ways to try to prevent CSD.

  • This handout summarizes Chagas disease in dogs. Caused by a protozoal parasite called Trypanosoma cruzi, it is spread by the bite of infected insects or ingestion of infected insects and rodents. The clinical signs of the condition, along with its treatment, prevention, and risk to human health are outlined.

  • Cheyletiellosis in rabbits is a condition caused by the common rabbit mite, Cheyletiella parasitovorax. This mite’s effects are sometimes called "walking dandruff" because they are large, whitish mites that crawl across the skin and hair of a rabbit and cause excessive flaky skin. Other clinical signs of cheyletiellosis include itching, scratching, and hair/fur loss. This species of mites can live in the environment for a short time and affect people and other animals, so it is important to follow your veterinarian's recommendations for treating the environment and all pets in the household.

  • The birth of a baby or the adoption of a new child is associated with a great deal of anxiety, excitement, and stress for not only the family, but also the family pet. Some dogs and cats can have a difficult time adjusting to these changes, especially if this is your first child, but preparation and planning will help.

  • One of the most common questions asked by an expectant parent or grandparent to a veterinary healthcare provider is how to introduce the family dog to a new infant, particularly if the dog has not been exposed to children before. The vast majority of dogs readily accept infants after an initial period of adjustment and curiosity.

  • Chlamydophilosis (psittacosis, chlamydiosis, parrot fever, ornithosis) is a common disease of birds caused by a bacterial organism called Chlamydophila psittaci. While this disease can occur in any bird, it is especially common in cockatiels, Amazon parrots, and budgerigars. Birds with chlamydophilosis exhibit a decreased appetite, weight loss, lethargy, diarrhea, nasal or ocular discharge, a fluffed-up appearance, and breathing difficulties. Some birds can carry C. psittaci asymptomatically, spreading it to other birds (and people) through their droppings and respiratory tract secretions. Because tests for diagnosing chlamydophilosis in birds, are not 100% reliable, veterinarians will often rely on a combination of test results to formulate a diagnosis. Treatment is usually with oral or injectable doxycycline antibiotic for 45 days. In humans, this disease often causes flu-like respiratory tract signs such as fever, sweating, headache, fatigue, muscle pain, inappetence, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and a dry cough. Since chlamydophilosis is a zoonotic disease, all new pet birds should be examined by a bird-savvy veterinarian and have some form of testing for this disease.

  • Coccidia are single-celled organisms that can act as a parasite after infecting your cat through the gastrointestinal tract. The most common form affecting cats, Isospora, is not a concern for infecting people, unlike Toxoplasma. They are highly resistant to environmental conditions, so cleanliness is important to prevent re-infection. Treatment is often simple with the appropriate antibiotics prescribed by your veterinarian.

  • There are several problems that can occur in aquatic turtles. Cystic calculi occur in turtles when minerals from the diet form crystals in the urine, which stick together and form stones, often resulting from improper nutrition and/or dehydration. A prolapse occurs when an organ protrudes from the vent. Regardless of the tissue or organ prolapsed, all can become traumatized, become dried out, or suffer from compromised blood flow and should be seen by a veterinarian immediately. If you notice that your turtle's shell is growing irregularly, it may be a sign of malnutrition or metabolic bone disease. Any turtle whose shell is abnormal should be checked by a veterinarian so that appropriate treatment can be initiated. Although shell fractures can be serious, the shell is bone and often can be repaired. Any trauma to the shell should be brought to the attention of a veterinarian immediately. Green algae growing on the outside of the shell occurs commonly and can be cleaned off with periodic brushing of the shell with disinfectant cleaners. The skin of turtles periodically sheds off in pieces. In the water, shed skin appears as a whitish, "fuzzy" substance. Although turtles are certainly not the only reptiles that can carry Salmonella, most turtles carry the infection asymptomatically. Wash your hands thoroughly with disinfectant soap every time after handling, cleaning, or feeding your reptile or its cage items to help minimize risks of contracting salmonellosis. Most veterinarians feel it is best to try to prevent captive red-eared sliders from hibernating. Dystocia occurs the female turtle is unable to pass her eggs, is a common problem in reptiles, and can be life-threatening. A turtle with dystocia typically does not eat and rapidly becomes sick, lethargic, or unresponsive and should be seen by a veterinarian familiar with reptiles immediately.

  • COVID-19 is a disease caused by the coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2. Current evidence suggests that person-to-person spread is the main source of infection. While there is evidence of transmission from humans to dogs and cats, it does not appear to be a common event at this time. If you suspect that you are ill with COVID-19, you should practice the same precautions with your pet as you would with people: wear a mask, keep your distance, wash your hands regularly, and avoid cuddling and other close contact. If your pet needs veterinary care while you are sick with COVID-19, do not take your pet to your veterinary clinic yourself.