Illustrated Articles

Zoonosis & Human Health

  • Bearded dragons have several unique problems; understanding these problems will allow you to better care for your pet and minimize future health care problems. These problems include Salmonella, avascular necrosis, abscesses, and dystocia.

  • COVID-19 is a viral respiratory disease of humans that was first discovered in late 2019. The illness is caused by the virus SARS-CoV-2, which is a new coronavirus that has not previously been identified in humans. Certain animals can be infected by the COVID-19 virus, but it appears to be an infrequent occurrence. If you contract COVID-19, you will need to remain quarantined on your property which may make caring for dogs a bit more challenging. If you suspect that you may have COVID-19 (with or without a positive test result), you should minimize contact with your pets. Just as you would quarantine yourself from the other human members of your home while sick, you should also quarantine yourself from your pets. If you are hospitalized and your pets must be cared for by a boarding kennel or pet sitter, inform the kennel or pet sitter that you are ill, allowing them to take the necessary precautions.

  • Chlamydophilosis (psittacosis, chlamydiosis, parrot fever, ornithosis) is a common disease of birds caused by a bacterial organism called Chlamydophila psittaci. While this disease can occur in any bird, it is especially common in cockatiels, Amazon parrots, and budgerigars. Birds with chlamydophilosis exhibit a decreased appetite, weight loss, lethargy, diarrhea, nasal or ocular discharge, a fluffed-up appearance, and breathing difficulties. Some birds can carry C. psittaci asymptomatically, spreading it to other birds (and people) through their droppings and respiratory tract secretions. Because tests for diagnosing chlamydophilosis in birds, are not 100% reliable, veterinarians will often rely on a combination of test results to formulate a diagnosis. Treatment is usually with oral or injectable doxycycline antibiotic for 45 days. In humans, this disease often causes flu-like respiratory tract signs such as fever, sweating, headache, fatigue, muscle pain, inappetence, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and a dry cough. Since chlamydophilosis is a zoonotic disease, all new pet birds should be examined by a bird-savvy veterinarian and have some form of testing for this disease.

  • There are several problems that can occur in aquatic turtles. Cystic calculi occur in turtles when minerals from the diet form crystals in the urine, which stick together and form stones, often resulting from improper nutrition and/or dehydration. A prolapse occurs when an organ protrudes from the vent. Regardless of the tissue or organ prolapsed, all can become traumatized, become dried out, or suffer from compromised blood flow and should be seen by a veterinarian immediately. If you notice that your turtle's shell is growing irregularly, it may be a sign of malnutrition or metabolic bone disease. Any turtle whose shell is abnormal should be checked by a veterinarian so that appropriate treatment can be initiated. Although shell fractures can be serious, the shell is bone and often can be repaired. Any trauma to the shell should be brought to the attention of a veterinarian immediately. Green algae growing on the outside of the shell occurs commonly and can be cleaned off with periodic brushing of the shell with disinfectant cleaners. The skin of turtles periodically sheds off in pieces. In the water, shed skin appears as a whitish, "fuzzy" substance. Although turtles are certainly not the only reptiles that can carry Salmonella, most turtles carry the infection asymptomatically. Wash your hands thoroughly with disinfectant soap every time after handling, cleaning, or feeding your reptile or its cage items to help minimize risks of contracting salmonellosis. Most veterinarians feel it is best to try to prevent captive red-eared sliders from hibernating. Dystocia occurs the female turtle is unable to pass her eggs, is a common problem in reptiles, and can be life-threatening. A turtle with dystocia typically does not eat and rapidly becomes sick, lethargic, or unresponsive and should be seen by a veterinarian familiar with reptiles immediately.

  • COVID-19 is a disease caused by the coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2. Current evidence suggests that person-to-person spread is the main source of infection. While there is evidence of transmission from humans to dogs and cats, it does not appear to be a common event at this time. If you suspect that you are ill with COVID-19, you should practice the same precautions with your pet as you would with people: wear a mask, keep your distance, wash your hands regularly, and avoid cuddling and other close contact. If your pet needs veterinary care while you are sick with COVID-19, do not take your pet to your veterinary clinic yourself.

  • Iguanas have several unique disease problems; understanding these problems will allow you to better care for your pet and minimize future health care problems.

  • There are four major infectious diseases seen in pet rabbits. Myxomatosis is spread by bites from mosquitoes, flies, fur mites, and fleas and can also be acquired from injuries caused by contaminated thorns or thistles. Subcutaneous swelling extends around the eyes, ears, and genital region and can progress to skin hemorrhages, breathing difficulties, decreased to no appetite, fever, generalized skin tumors, and death. Viral hemorrhagic disease is transmitted by direct contact with infected rabbits, rodents, and contaminated cages, dishes, and clothing. If signs are present, they include decreased appetite, fever, lethargy, collapse, convulsions, coma, difficulty breathing, foaming at the mouth, bloody nasal discharge, and death. Encephalitozoonosis causes a latent condition in rabbits. When signs do develop, the affected rabbit may develop dense white cataracts in one or both eyes, a head tilt, nystagmus, lack of appetite, difficulty walking, uncontrollable rolling over in one direction, tremors, and seizures. Pasteurellosis commonly causes abscesses, respiratory infections, and chronic inflammatory disease in rabbits. It can infect the nasolacrimal ducts, eyes, ears, and nose, and can cause abscesses of tooth roots, bones (particularly the jaw), skin, tissues under the skin, and internal organs.

  • COVID-19 is a human respiratory disease that was initially discovered late in 2019. This disease is caused by a new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, that has not previously been identified in humans. Physical distancing, or social distancing, is one of the most effective strategies available to reduce the spread of COVID-19. While physical distancing, walking your dog is fine as long as you are feeling well and can remain at least 6 feet away from other people. If you have cats, find new ways to play with them indoors. Many veterinary clinics are adjusting their policies to reflect physical distancing guidance related to COVID-19. If your pet needs veterinary care (or if you need to pick up medication, a prescription diet, etc.), call your veterinary hospital first to determine how to proceed.

  • **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.

  • Turtles have several unique problems. Understanding these problems will allow you to better care for your pet and minimize future health care issues.