Keeping Your Pet Free of Infectious Diseases
Infectious diseases are frequently caused by microscopic organisms in the form of viruses, bacteria, spirochetes, Rickettsia, mycoplasm, parasites (giardia, tritrichomonas, heartworm, toxoplasmosis, toxocara (roundworms)), fungal agents, or other organisms that invade the body and result in illness. These organisms are everywhere, but exposure frequently requires specific events or vectors, such as ticks, fleas, or mosquitoes, to produce disease.
Fortunately, many of today’s immunizations help protect or minimize many serious or deadly infectious pet diseases such as distemper virus, rabies virus, parvovirus, leptospirosis, rhinotracheitis virus, calici virus, adenovirus and parainfluenza. These are recommended immunizations for core animal diseases. During routine wellness exams, we will administer "core" immunizations that protect your pet from common diseases.
We will also evaluate your pet’s lifestyle, travel history, and risks for other infectious disease exposure. Lyme disease (Borrelia), bordatella, and feline leukemia are considered non-core immunizations. We will discuss an immunization protocol based upon you and your pet’s true risk of exposure.
True to our reputation as the "go-to" pet hospital for complex veterinary issues, we are also skilled in identifying some of the lesser-known infectious disorders.
As a result of more pets being more mobile and traveling with their owners, some infectious diseases are more prevalent. During the late summer and fall, we frequently see a rise in the number of patients presenting with leptospirosis. Leptospirosis is an infectious bacteria frequently transmitted in freestanding water (shallow end of lakes, free-standing rain water, bird baths, etc.) secondary to urine from wild infected animals such as raccoons or skunks infecting the water.
We are also seeing a rise in infectious organisms that are transmitted via infected ticks and fleas. We have been working collaboratively with North Carolina State Infectious Disease Laboratory and Colorado State University regarding the diagnosis and management of these newer diseases. Each year, several patients present to our hospital with symptoms consistent with various species of Bartonella, anaplasm, and borrelia (Lyme disease).
With many people vacationing in more rural areas with their pets, there is an increase in diseases transmitted by ticks, such as Lyme disease. We regularly educate and counsel pet owners on the preventive measures to minimize the possibility of infection from these diseases. Unfortunately, a specific diagnosis of Lyme disease is fraught with difficulty. It is frequently a combination of symptoms and abnormal diagnostic results that suggest Lyme disease as opposed to a specific test. Early detection for Lyme disease is critical and is perhaps becoming more available through improved testing.
We have frequently collaborated with research specialists at North Carolina State University regarding the diagnosis and increased treatment resistance with a serious parasite in cats called Tritrichomonas foetus.
Rabies is a very serious untreatable viral infectious disease. In the state of Illinois, immunization of dogs and cats is required by law. In Cook County, there is a positive case of rabies every month in bats according to the Cook County Animal Control. It is important for pet owners to realize that infected bats are frequently linked to other rabies infections. Many pet owners have stated that their pet never leaves the house; therefore, do not require protection from rabies. Unfortunately, bats may enter homes through the eaves of the roof and enter the home from the attic. Fortunately, though, not all bats are infected with the rabies virus.
If you ever see an apparently ill bat on the ground, please immediately call your local public health department animal control and do not attempt to help the bat. They will safely remove the ill bat and test it for rabies. Please visit the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) for rabies exposure and prevention information.
We take the diagnosis and management of infectious diseases very seriously. If the pet has been infected or exposed, in many cases, the pet owner has been either in the same geographic area and may also have had possible exposure. Some other diseases may have a zoonotic potential (able to be transmitted from animal to people). Our ultimate goal is help keep your pet healthy.
Keep up the good work!
– Glenda Ross