• Dr Rachel Teoh

Five Diseases you can get from your pets

Dr Rachel Teoh, MBBS, Dip Fam Med, Dip Derm

1. Rabies

The World Health Organization estimates that between 30,000 and 70,000 people die worldwide of rabies each year despite the development of the first rabies vaccine in 1885. Rabies is caused by various species in the Rhabdoviridae Family, Genus Lyssavirus. Almost all cases of rabies are transmitted from rabid animal through a bite. Lyssaviruses are inoculated at the site of the bite and subsequently enter the local motor and sensory nerves. The viruses then migrate centrally reaching the spinal cord and brain. In developing countries, dogs account for more than 90% of reported cases. The host susceptibility to infection depends very much on the size of the inoculation, proximity of the bite to the central nervous system and host genetic variations. The average incubation period is 1 to 3 months.

Prodromal symptoms - consists of nonspecific flu-like symptoms; malaise, anorexia, irritability, fever, sore throat, headache, nausea and vomiting. There may be specific neurologic signs and symptoms at the site of the virus entry; paresthesias, pain and pruritus.

An acute neurologic syndrome of either encephalitic or paralytic rabies typically lasts for 2 to 7 days. Manifestations include hyperactivity, persistent fever, fluctuating consciousness, hypersalivation and seizures.

2. Ringworm, athlete's foot and jock itch

Some people call these fungal infections "ringworm," because they often cause a ring-shaped, red, itchy rash on the skin. But a ring-shaped rash is not always there. Dermatophytes are filamentous fungi in the genera Microsporum, Trichophyton and Epidermophyton. Dermatophytes metabolize and subsist upon keratin in the skin, hair and nails.

The major clinical types of dermatophyte infections are:

  • Tinea corporis – Infection of body surfaces other than the feet, groin, face, scalp hair, or beard hair

  • Tinea pedis – Infection of the foot

  • Tinea cruris – Infection of the groin

  • Tinea capitis – Infection of scalp hair

  • Tinea unguium (dermatophyte onychomycosis) – Infection of the nail

You can catch fungal infection from anyone who is infected, from an infected dog or cat, or from places where fungus might be such as the area near a swimming pool, the locker room floor or a shower area. The fungal infection can spread to other body parts.

3. Cutaneous larva migrans

The hookworm responsible for cutaneous larva migrans are found worldwide. Infection is more frequent in warmer climates especially in tropical countries. It frequently occurs as a result of humna infection with the larvae of the dog or cat hookworm. Individuals at risk include travelers, children and swimmers whose activities bring their skin in contact with contaminated soil.

4. Toxoplasmosis

Toxoplasmosis is caused by the protozoa Toxoplasma gondii. The parasite in infected cats is excreted as an unsporulated oocyst. After 2 to 3 days, the oocysts develop spores that are infective. Infection occurs upon direct contact with cat feces (cleaning the litter box, gardening in feces-contaminated soil) and consumption of undercooked meat.

Toxoplasmosis in adults is usually asymptomatic. They may develop flu-like symptoms and generally self-limited. However, acute infection during first trimester of pregnancy can cause serious congenital infection.

5. Leptospirosis

Leptospirosis is caused by pathogenic spirochetes of the genus Leptospira. Humans most often become infected after exposure to environmental sources such as animal urine, contaminated water or soil or infected animal tissue through cuts or abraded skin, mucous membranes, or conjunctiva.

The organism infects a variety of wild and domestic mammals. Animals that can carry leptospirosis include:

  • Rodents, such as rats and mice

  • Farm animals, such as cows, pigs, horses, sheep, and goats

  • Dogs

Most cases are mild and self-limiting. The illness can present with fever, rigors, myalgias and headache, following an incubation period of 2 to 26 days.

Conjunctival suffusion with subconjunctival hemorrhage

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Disclaimer: This article is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice and readers are advised to seek advice from me personally.

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