Zoonotic Diseases - Cat
Transmit, immune, litter box, pregnant, toxoplasma, blindness, brain, stool, bowl, ringworm, fungus, outdoors, adopt, new, raw food, diet, salmonella, fever, diarrhea, stomach pain, cat scratch, flea, fatigue, hookworms, rabbies, vaccine, exam
Zoonotic Diseases - Cat
Being the caregiver of a cat has been shown to provide many health benefits, both for your mind and body. Repeated studies demonstrate that cats can reduce stress, lower your blood pressure, and even boost your chances of survival after a heart attack. There are however, some potential health issues that can arise when you share more than cuddling with your cat.
Zoonotic diseases are ones transmitted between humans and animals. Most pose a minimal risk for healthy owners but the very young, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems need to be on the alert.
Obstetricians appropriately advise expectant mothers that they need to exercise caution when cleaning their cat's litter boxes. It is inappropriate however to recommend giving the cat away or avoiding interactions with your cat throughout the pregnancy. If a pregnant woman is exposed for the first time while she is pregnant to the toxoplasma organism, she runs the risk of her baby being born with congenital defects such as blindness or brain disorders. Cats contract this disease by eating infected prey. Since the toxoplasma organism is shed in an infected cat's stool, keeping cats indoors along with getting someone else to clean the cat box at least once daily is a good idea.
Keep in mind; most cases of toxoplasmosis are not acquired from cats but rather from contaminated environment. We should all avoid eating undercooked meat, wash all fruits and vegetables and wear gloves while gardening.
I am a bit embarrassed to say that I have actually contracted a zoonotic disease from one of my feline patients, ringworm. Though the name implies this disease is due to a worm, in actuality, it is a fungal disease. Cats that are most susceptible to acquiring this skin disorder are ones that come in contact with many other cats, think catteries and shelters. Affected cats will often look scruffy and have gray scaling patches on their skin. These cats will contaminate the environment when the fungal spores drop from their bodies. These spores can be infective for months. When a person contracts ringworm, you typically find an itchy circular lesion with a red border. Don't scratch it and go see your doctor.
In recent years, there has been a movement toward feeding raw diets to pets. It is meant to more closely resemble what a pet would eat in the wild. Raw diets however can be the source of many health concerns. Attempting to formulate a balanced diet can be very difficult. The raw ingredients can also be a source of the common bacterial disease, salmonellosis. A cat fed a contaminated raw diet may look perfectly healthy but shed the organism in its stool. Handling the raw diet without thoroughly washing your hands or exposure to fecal contamination can lead to human infection. In people, salmonellosis can present with fever, diarrhea and stomach pain.
Approximately 25, 000 people are diagnosed with cat scratch fever every year in the United States. Scratches, cat bites and even flea bites can transmit bartonellosis. The carrier feline usually looks perfectly healthy. The affected person may have swollen lymph nodes, run a fever, complain of a headache or seem fatigued. These same signs can be seen with the flu so diagnosing this condition can be difficult. When in doubt, especially after a not so gentle encounter with a cat behooves you to see your physician.
Cats as well as dogs can harbor internal parasites. Of special concern are roundworms and hookworms. Children are most commonly affected usually because their attention to personal hygiene is less than stellar. Contaminated soil can be the reservoir for visceral and cutaneous larva migrans. The later being an itchy rash caused by immature hookworms and the former, visceral larva migrans is a potentially serious condition affecting the eyes or internal organs.
Most viral diseases are species specific. Translated: most viral disease of cats will only affect cats and not dogs or people. There is very dangerous exception to this rule. Rabies. Recently, cats have been the most commonly affected companion animal. This is due to the fact that most municipalities do not require cats to be vaccinated for this potentially fatal disease. Cats by nature are hunters. This puts them in harms way when they come into contact with rabies infected wild animals.
How can you best protect yourself and your cat?
1. See your veterinarian at least once yearly and bring a stool sample for analysis.
2. Vaccinate your cat for rabies.
3. Keep your cat indoors.
4. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after handling your cat.
5. Keep cats off of areas where food is prepared.
6. Do not feed raw diets or if you must, exercise extreme caution.
7. Seek medical attention for all cat bites and scratches.
8. Clean litter boxes at least once daily.
9. Wash all fruits and vegetable before eating.
10. Cook all meat thoroughly.
11. Wear gloves when working in the yard.
12. Give your cat `veterinarian approved' monthly deworming medications.