Dogs + Infectious Diseases

  • **This article has been specifically written for pet sitters and how they can reduce their exposure to COVID-19.** COVID-19 is a new respiratory disease in humans, initially discovered late in 2019. Although all coronaviruses are related, they are not all the same virus. As a pet sitter, it is important to limit direct contact with your clients. People can shed the virus without showing any symptoms of disease, so it is important to practice physical distancing even with clients who appear healthy. It is also important to limit your contact with potentially contaminated items in your clients’ homes, whether they are at home or not. The most important things you can do to minimize your risk of infection, and minimize the risk of transferring infection to your clients, is to be cautious when interacting with clients and when touching anything that could be contaminated, wear a mask, and maintain at least 6 feet distance from your clients. Communicate with your clients regularly during this pandemic. Having information about your clients’ health can help you avoid taking unnecessary risks. Finally, if you develop any signs of COVID-19, including cough, fever, and/or shortness of breath, it is important that you stay home from work.

  • Trifluridine is an antiviral topical medication used to treat viral infections of the eye, such as herpesvirus-1 in cats. Give as directed. Side effects include eye irritation. Do not use in pets with an allergy to this medication. If a negative reaction occurs, please call the veterinary office.

  • Tularemia is an infection of the bacteria Francisella tularensis and is most common in rabbits and rodents. Infection in dogs occurs from ingestion of an infected animal, contaminated water, or the bite of a blood sucking insect. Tularemia causes mild illness in healthy dogs. More severe clinical signs include enlarged lymph nodes and draining abscesses. Diagnosis includes physical exam, bloodwork, and urinalysis, as well as paired serum titers. PCR can also be used to identify the bacteria in a blood sample. Treatment includes antibiotics, surgical removal of any draining abscesses and any other supportive warranted by the dog’s condition. Tularemia is a reportable zoonotic disease.

  • There are six primary reasons for vaccination failure. Vaccine inactivation is one reason and is most commonly caused by warming during shipping and handling. In addition, vaccines are not always 100% effective. Dogs may also be unhealthy or too young, leading to vaccine failure. Interference by maternal antibodies can lead to the vaccine being blocked.

  • Veterinarians routinely recommend certain vaccines for all dogs(called core vaccines) whereas others are used more selectively according to the dog's environment and lifestyle. Vaccines work by stimulating the body's immune system to recognize and fight a particular microorganism such as a virus, bacteria, or other infectious organisms. Depending on the disease, the vaccine will help the body prevent infection or lessen the severity of infection and promote rapid recovery. Vaccination will protect the vast majority of dogs but under some circumstances, vaccine breakdowns may occur.

  • Valley fever is a fungal infection caused by Coccidioides immitis. In the US it is most commonly found in the southwestern states with California and Arizona being most affected. The most common method of infection is through inhalation of spores that are released by disturbance of soil such as while digging. These spores infect the lungs forming spherules. Dogs with healthy immune systems avoid serious infection by walling off the spherules; however, those that have weakened immune systems can become ill. The two main forms of disease are primary and disseminated. The primary disease occurs in the lungs causing coughing, lethargy, decreased appetite, fever, and depression. Disseminated disease occurs when the fungus migrates to different areas of the body including the bones, joints, eyes, and rarely the brain. Diagnosis includes blood tests (including titer tests) and radiographs. Treatment requires prolonged anti-fungal agents and is generally successful in respiratory or primary cases; however, patients affected by the disseminated form have a more guarded prognosis.

  • Whipworms are intestinal parasites that cause bloody diarrhea. They are diagnosed by finding eggs on microscopic examination of the stool. These eggs, however, are difficult to find. Several medications are effective against whipworms. All medications must be repeated monthly for three months to clear the infection.

  • A zoonosis is a disease or infection that can be transmitted from animals to humans. Although dogs only pose a mild risk of causing disease in humans, those with immunosuppressive conditions such as HIV or those receiving chemotherapy will be at higher risk of becoming ill from these infections. The most common and significant infections that humans can get from their pet dogs include rabies, leptospirosis, ringworm, and gastrointestinal illness such as Salmonella and Campylobacter. Hygiene plays an important role in preventing the spread of these diseases, as well as preventive medicine for your dog, including regular deworming and external parasite preventives.