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Working at CSU

CSU veterinarians explain zoonotic diseases

June 6, 2013
By Susan Wyman

The Community Practice team at the CSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital often fields questions from clients and callers about zoonotic diseases, or zoonoses.

Author Susan Wyman is a staffer with the Community Practice group at the CSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital. The team provides general care, wellness services, and treatment of minor injuries and illnesses for pets.These are diseases that can be transmitted from animals to people and from people to animals.

An example that’s been in the news recently is rabies, which has been detected in small wild animals in Larimer County, prompting warnings for livestock, pets and people who might come into contact with animals such as skunks, raccoons and fox.

Reducing risk of diseases

Even so, the occurrence of zoonotic disease in people is uncommon, and contact with zoonotic disease agents is preventable with precautions. These include:

  • Good hygiene! Wash your hands thoroughly with hot, soapy water after playing with your pets or handling their waste.
  • Keep feces cleaned up in the yard and litter boxes.
  • Vaccinate and deworm regularly.
  • Clean and disinfect work spaces and equipment.
  • Control rodents.
  • Isolate and treat sick animals.
  • Contact your physician and veterinarian if you think you or pet could have a zoonotic disease.
  • Understand that zoonoses may be contracted from ill animals, and those that appear healthy.

Zoonoses of dogs and cats

Influenza: H1N1 and H5N1

  • Animals and humans will have flu-like symptoms.
  • Your veterinarian and physician should be able to test for these diseases.

Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA)

  • Encompasses the Staph infections that are resistant to many antibiotics.
  • Can be easily spread from pet to human, and human to pet.
  • Most common infections are of the skin, soft-tissue and surgical sites.
  • Dog and cat bites can cause infection.
  • Watch for redness, swelling and pain at the infection site; can develop into more serious infections.
  • Children tend to be more susceptible.


  • Transmitted to humans from the saliva of a rabid animal.
  • Very important to consult your physician if you are bitten by any animal, even your pet.
  • Rabies is a viral infection that affects the nervous system and can be deadly if left untreated.
  • All species are susceptible to rabies. Wild animals that commonly are carriers include raccoons, coyotes, foxes and bats.


  • Ringworm is not a worm; rather, it is a fungus spread by direct contact that causes skin and scalp problems.
  • Usually makes a bald patch of scaly skin or a ring-shaped rash that is reddish and may be itchy.
  • Cats can be infected without clinical signs.


  • Bacterial infection that causes decreased appetite, diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps in humans.
  • Symptoms can last up to one week, and most people recover without treatment. However, the infection can be fatal to people with fragile immune systems.
  • Dogs may be lethargic and have diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, fever and vomiting.
  • Wash your hands immediately after cleaning up pet stool.


  • Infection caused by a parasite called the roundworm.
  • Parasite eggs are shed through the feces.
  • Can cause vomiting and diarrhea in pets.
  • Can cause eye lesions that can lead to blindness or swelling of organs in humans.

Zoonotic diseases of dogsPets and people can avoid zoonotic disease with basic prevention and good hygiene.


  • Bacteria spread through urine of infected animals.
  • Symptoms in dogs include fever, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, poor appetite, severe lethargy, depression, renal disease and liver dysfunction.
  • Humans will exhibit flu-like symptoms.
  • Antibiotics are used for treatment.
  • A vaccine can protect dogs against the four most common versions of Leptospirosis.


  • Caused by an intestinal parasite.
  • Transmitted by contaminated stools and water.
  • Common symptoms in both humans and pets are diarrhea, gas, abdominal discomfort, nausea and vomiting. However, it is possible to be infected and have no signs or symptoms of illness.

Zoonotic diseases of cats

Cat scratch disease

  • Bacterial disease that can cause swollen lymph nodes, fever, headache, fatigue and decreased appetite in humans.
  • Most cats never show any symptoms of being infected.
  • Transmitted by cat scratches and bites.
  • Wash any scratches or bite wounds immediately.


  • Transmission through contact with infected cat feces or by eating undercooked meat.
  • Symptoms in humans range from nothing to flu-like symptoms; infection can cause birth defects and miscarriages in pregnant women.
  • Most all risk may be eliminated with regular cleaning of litter boxes, so that feces are not present for days or weeks.