Medical and Health Risks From Stray Cats and Dogs

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Many kind-hearted individuals see a stray animal and want to help.

However, if you are considering assisting a stray cat or dog, there are certain medical and health risks that you need to be aware of before you come to the aid of an animal.

 

Common Diseases

There are a number of diseases that stray animals may carry, which can be spread from cats and dogs to humans. The disease transmission can occur through a bite or scratching.

Salmonellosis, an infection that causes diarrhea, is one example of a disease spread by a stray animal to a human. Bartonellosis is another disease, usually transmitted by cats but also by dogs; it’s commonly referred to as “cat scratch fever.” It swells the lymph nodes and in some cases results in a fever.

As its nickname suggests, it’s transmitted when an animal scratches you. Two other diseases that can be transmitted include cryptosporidiosis and camplyobacterosis, both of which cause diarrhea.

Finally, if you come into contact accidentally with stray cat feces, you run the risk of contracting toxoplasmosis, which causes mild flu-like symptoms for several weeks in most healthy individuals and eventually becomes asymptomatic (unless you have a weakened immune system from HIV and/or are pregnant in which case the disease can be fatal to you or your baby).

 

Stray Cats and Dogs

 

Rabies

Although rabies is most common in raccoons, skunks, foxes and bats, a stray cat or dog can carry the disease as well. In fact, worldwide, the vast majority of human rabies cases results from dog bites. Rabies is a viral disease and results in acute encephalitis, which is an inflammation of the brain.

The early stage symptoms include headache, fever, acute pain, and uncontrollable emotions and movements. If not treated before the virus enters the central nervous system, the disease is fatal.

If you are bitten, treatment involves a series of five to seven painful shots in the buttocks and arms spread out over several days.

 

Fecal Contaminants and Bacteria

The sewage from stray cats and dogs can pose a health risk to the community. Bacteria from the sewage of stray cats and dogs can enter streams and municipal waterways, contaminating the fresh water.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, in certain beach communities in the mid-1990s, dog waste raised the level of bacteria levels so much so that individuals were no longer allowed to swim in the sea.

For example, beaches have been closed at times in Virginia Beach and Clearwater Florida due to high levels of bacteria caused, at least in part, by dog waste. As the stray dog and cat population continues to grow, unfortunately, so will this problem of waste.

 

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