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zoonotic disease

Most feline infectious diseases only affect cats, but some of these diseases can be transmitted from cats to people.

The likelihood of an average person contracting a zoonotic disease from a cat is low, but individuals with weakened immune systems are more susceptible to these diseases.

There are a lot of types of diseases that could be transmitted to cats, the commonest include:

Toxoplasma: Toxoplasma is considered to be one of the most widespread types of parasites around the world. The disease is transmitted to cats through eating rodents or bugs, or when in contact with other cats that are infected with the parasite (Toxoplasma Gondii). Signs may not show in most cats (They are considered carriers only). Signs and symptoms include fever, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and it may progress to the point where it could affect the lungs, liver, or the nervous system.

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Ringworms: Cats get infected with ringworms when they get in direct contact with the Dermatophytes family of fungi. Signs of ringworms include scaly bald spots on the cat’s body. The cat’s urge to scratch itself and the size of ringworms on the body increases with time.

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Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP): FIP is considered to be a common deadly disease in cats. The disease is especially more common in areas where there is a big group of cats together (shelters). The disease is transmitted through inhalation or eating something that was contaminated with the FIP virus. Infected cat feces are considered to be one of the most common cause of transmission. There are two main types of the disease: Effusive, or “wet” form, and a non-effusive, or “dry” form. While both types are deadly, the effusive type is more common and progresses rapidly as compared to the non-effusive type.

 

Effusive (wet):

One of the distinctive signs for effusive FIP is the accumulation of fluids inside the abdominal or chest cavity, which may lead to difficulties in breathing. Other signs include loss of appetite, fever, loss of weight, jaundice, and diarrhea.

 

Non-effusive (dry):

The signs of the non-effusive type are similar to those of the effusive type, except there is no accumulation of fluids. Disturbance in the nerves and vision may accompany the non-effusive type only.

Unfortunately, there is currently no treatment for FIP, and the chance of survival is 10% only.

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV): FIV is a disease the affects the cat’s immune system, leaving the cat vulnerable to many other infections. Although cats infected with FIV may appear normal for years, they eventually suffer from this immune deficiency, which allows normally harmless bacteria, viruses, protozoa, and fungi found in the everyday environment to potentially cause severe illnesses. Signs and symptoms of the disease include temporary swelling of the lymph nodes, loss of appetite, progressive deterioration of the cat’s health characterized by recurrent illness interspersed with periods of relative health, inflammation of any part of the body, or neurological signs (e.g. seizures, epilepsy, etc…)

Rabies:  Rabies is considered to be more commonly spread with dogs as compared to cats. Cats get infected with rabies when they are bitten by an animal infected with the rabies virus. Signs of rabies may not show at first (may take months to show up). The most common signs include a change in the behavior of the cat (e.g. angry, restless) loss of appetite, fever, exhaustion, paralysis, epilepsy, or even sudden death.

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Campylobacteriosis: Campylobacteriosis is considered as a non-deadly disease that targets the cats’ gastrointestinal system. The disease is transmitted through ingestion of the bacteria itself. The signs and symptoms revolve around the gastrointestinal the it affects. For example, diarrhea, blood in the stool, vomiting, fever, stomach pain, loss of appetite followed by loss of weight, or different inflammation in the lymph nodes and the gastrointestinal tract.

Heartworms: Heartworms are considered to be one of the most dangerous diseases that infect cats, for its ability to invade the cat’s heart form the inside and migrate to the lungs to destroy them completely and shut down the body. The disease is transmitted through the bite of a mosquito that carries the larvae (Dirofilaria Immitis) that was most probably picked up by another infected animal. Signs and symptoms include intermittent vomiting (may include blood or parts of food), diarrhea, rapid and difficult breathing, cough (may be confused with asthma or other respiratory diseases), or loss of appetite followed by loss of weight.

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If you notice any of the symptoms mentioned or not mentioned above from your cat, take your cat to the nearest reliable and approved clinic as soon as possible for diagnosis and treatment.

  •  Cat Scratch Disease (CSD): is caused by a bacterial infection in cats. As the name implies, a person catches the infection by getting scratched/bitten hard enough by an infected cat. It is not a dangerous disease. After 3-14 days of being scratched or bitten, signs of a mild infection can occur at the site of injury. The area of injury mostly appears swollen and red. Symptoms include fever, exhaustion, headache, poor appetite, and swollen lymph nodes.

  •  Toxoplasmosis is considered to be one of the most widespread types of diseases worldwide. The infection is caused by Toxoplasma Gondii. Pregnant women and immunocompromised individuals are at a higher risk for developing toxoplasmosis, whereas healthy people are at a lower risk for developing it. The disease is transmitted from accidentally swallowing the parasite through contact with cat feces either through cleaning cat litter boxes, touching or eating anything that came in contact with the infected cat feces. Eating undercooked meat and unwashed vegetables could also transmit the disease. Most people are asymptomatic or experience flu-like symptoms that may last for a month or more. Signs and symptoms for severe toxoplasmosis include damage to the brain, eyes, or other organs.

  •  Salmonella poisoning, also called salmonellosis, is a bacterial infection that is contracted by eating contaminated food, such as undercooked chicken or eggs, but it is possible to contract the disease from an infected cat, which can carry Salmonella bacteria and pass them in their stool. Symptoms and signs include diarrhea, fever, and stomach pain beginning one to three days after infection. Although salmonellosis usually resolves on its own, some individuals require medical attention due to dehydration. Owners can reduce the risk of salmonellosis in themselves and their cats by keeping cats indoors and feeding them cooked or clean processed food.

  •  Rabies results from being bit by a dog, cat, or other wild animals infected with the rabies virus. Signs and symptoms appear on the animals before appearing on the individual. The virus spreads backward (from the feet to the head). Signs and symptoms include a change in behavior, fever, altered mental status, and weight loss. If the individual was bitten by an animal that is suspected to have rabies, seek immediate medical attention within 24 hours.

  •  Ringworms is the most common skin disease caused by cats. It is a highly infectious disease caused by a group of fungi. Ringworms are transmitted by contact with an infected animal’s skin or fur, either directly or from a contaminated environment. Infected cats continuously drop fungal spores from their skin and fur which can be picked up by the individual. The first signs of infection are round, scaly, and itchy skin lesions around the body. Treatments include anti-fungal cream. Treatment may take from two to four weeks for complete remission.

 References : 

https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/diseases/cat-scratch.html

https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/toxoplasmosis/gen_info/faqs.html

https://www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/cornell-feline-health-center/health-information/feline-health-topics/zoonotic-disease-what-can-i-catch-my-cat

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