Millions of households share square footage with multiple mammals, and while harmony might be a tall order for some cats and dogs, peaceful and healthy coexistence is generally possible. While dogs and cats can spread certain parasites between each other, good hygiene and regular use of vaccines and preventatives can help keep all animals healthy.
What diseases can cats give dogs?
They may share your attention, an occasional snuggle together, and space on your sofa, but generally, there aren't many diseases a dog can catch from a cat. Though they can't share a common cold, dogs and cats are at risk for transmitting parasites to one another and may share certain cat to dog diseases. Fortunately, good preventive care will minimize most of the risk. If your dog shows symptoms that they've picked up something from your cat, they'll need their own treatment from the veterinarian.
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Fleas and ticks
Fleas are efficient in just about every way, jumping on and off animals as they please and often leaving their mark. Often, that means red skin, excessive itching, and sometimes secondary infections and dermatitis, if flea allergy is present. The tick is able to behave similarly, moving from host to host and putting your pet at risk for Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Fortunately, there's a host of effective preventives on the market to keep fleas and ticks away from your cat and dog.
One of the diseases that can spread among cats and dogs is ringworm. Despite the name "ringworm," this disease isn't a parasite but is a fungus, showing scaly, red rings on the skin. Ringworm typically presents on the face, ear tips, paws, and tail. If your cat has ringworm, they can share it with you and your dog. It doesn't take much to share ringworm. Just a scrape or a scratch releases the fungus spores, and contact with infected hair or even bedding or furniture can spread it.
It's not unusual for a carrier pet to show no signs of illness; some pets never become infected despite exposure to the fungus. Ringworm should be treated by a veterinarian and may require oral medications or a series of medicated baths. Ultimately, the best prevention is good hygiene and cleaning of bedding and grooming tools as well as regular veterinary exams to keep animals in good health. Healthy animals are more likely to be able to resist ringworm infection and also less likely to pass on infection to humans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Parasite infection are fairly common in cats and dogs because they're so easily shared. The most common parasites in pets are hookworm, giardia, roundworm, tapeworm, and whipworm. Tapeworms are spread by an infected flea that your dog can ingest through routine grooming. The other common worms are spread through stool, where the worm's microscopic eggs find their way into the outside world from your pet's intestinal tract.
Though it's unpleasant to think of your beloved pet eating feces, sometimes it happens, likely on purpose with your dog or from a dog grooming themself. Your pet unwittingly ingests eggs that perpetuate the cycle in their intestines. Diarrhea, vomiting, weight loss, and a poor coat are signs of a weakened immune system and parasite infection. Cleaning up after your pets minimizes the chance of exposure and so does keeping litter boxes with their tempting cat feces in places dogs can't access. It's important to have all pets in the household on monthly flea, dewormer, and heartworm preventatives. Your veterinarian can help you choose the best products for your animals.
Rabies vaccinations are a legal requirement in most of the United States, and all cats and dogs need to be vaccinated for rabies and receive regular immunization doses. Dogs can acquire rabies through contact with the saliva or nervous system tissue of an infected animal. Wild animals like raccoons, skunks, foxes, and bats can carry rabies in the United States. Most rabies exposures occur from bats because they are small enough to get into people's houses. Cats are at risk of exposure because they are more likely than dogs to hunt and play with bats.
Fortunately, rabies vaccinations are effective at preventing outbreaks among house pets, and keeping humans and animals safe from this deadly disease.
Cat scratches and bites
Sometimes they have a disagreement, or they may engage in rough play, and the cat may sink their teeth into the family dog. Your cat's pointy canine teeth are effective weapons, causing puncture wounds that become welcoming pockets for infection. Your dog may end up with an abscess from a tussle with the family cat.
Signs of an abscess include a painful bump at the wound, fever, and lethargy. Occasionally, the abscess will break through the skin, emitting a nasty odor and pus. The most common areas for a dog to get injured by cat scratches are the eyes and nose. If the eye becomes scratched or you notice an abscess, seek veterinary treatment.
Regular hygiene, washing of shared spaces as well as a cat's litter box and bedding, annual wellness trips to the veterinarian, monitoring for flulike symptoms, and staying up to date on vaccines and preventive medication can go a long way in halting transmission of many household parasites. Common sense, soap, and a trusted veterinarian can all help to keep all the animals in your household safe and healthy.