If you’ve ever watched your dog sniff around the ground, or leap to check out a raccoon, consider that every pet is susceptible to infectious disease. Wild animals and insects can be carriers for serious diseases, including rabies, tetanus, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Lyme disease, and hantavirus.
Cat scratches, even from an indoor cat, may carry "cat scratch disease" – a bacterial infection.
- Keep your pet’s vaccinations up-to-date, even if they are house pets.
- Keep your pet’s bedding and living area clean.
- Feed your pet a balanced diet. Do not feed your pet raw foods or let your pet drink out of the toilet.
- Clean cat litter boxes every day. Pregnant women should avoid touching cat litter because it can cause toxoplasmosis.
- Wash hands thoroughly after touching animals or cleaning up animal waste.
- If you keep reptiles, wash hands thoroughly after handling them. Reptiles can carry the salmonella bacteria.
Animal Bite Care
- Wash wound with soap and water with pressure from a faucet, but do not scrub.
- If the bite or scratch is bleeding, apply pressure with a clean towel to stop the bleeding.
- Dry the wound and cover it with a sterile dressing.
- Call your physician to see if antibiotics, a tetanus booster or rabies vaccine is needed. You may need to take the animal in to have them tested for rabies.
Rabies is a viral infection caused by a virus in the Rhabdoviridae family. It attacks the nervous system, and once symptoms develop, it is 100% fatal in animals. Rabies occurs primarily in skunks, raccoons, foxes, wolves, ferrets, and bats. The rabies virus enters from animal-animal through a cut, scratch or mucous membranes, and travels to the central nervous system.
In humans bitten by a rabid animal, exposure can be immediate or take up to five days to two months to occur. These are the most common symptoms:
- Low-grade fever
- Appetite loss
- Intense thirst accompanied by painful throat spasms
If bitten by an animal (even your own), an unknown cat or dog, or an animal known to carry rabies, call your family physician and report the incident right away. Don’t wait for symptoms to appear.
Source: Centers for Disease Control