Suburban Wildlife: Part 2 of 4: Leptospirosis, Lyme Disease and Salmonellosis

Good personal hygiene is important for humanly transferred illnesses as well as zoonotic ones.

If you read my last blog, you know that there are many zoonotic diseases present within our environment, just as there are many disease pathogens from humans and pets. Fortunately, most of us will never come into contact with zoonotic diseases in our lifetime.  And if our pets are properly vaccinated, our pets will be safe too.

Zoonotic diseases are transmitted to humans from an infected lower form of vertebrate and most of these illnesses will run their course, and can be treated using over-the-counter medications.


What is Leptospirosis?

A bacterium (spirochete), shed in animal urine. Although rarely fatal, if contracted, this disease should be taken seriously.

The incubation period for this illness is one to two weeks, and the person would experience a sudden onset of fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and/or constipation.

If you have these symptoms and have either been directly exposed to animal urine or believe you may have been – you should contact a physician and be tested for the disease. If an infection is confirmed, antibiotics are usually prescribed, which are most effective when treatment begins sooner than later.

It is important to know that your pets (cats, dogs) can carry the disease. The bacteria are released into the environment (litter box, yard) when the animals urinate. This is another reason why vaccinations for your pets, and practicing good personal hygiene for you, are so important.

How can you protect yourself and your pets against this disease?

Never consume water found in nature unless you purify it first – using a water purifying tablet is one method. After a big rain, and at other times too, run off into streams and rivers can, and will most likely contain animal urine from dogs and cats…and other wildlife as well.

Thoroughly wash exposed body parts after gardening, hiking, etc. – especially, if you have scratched your skin.

Clean and medicate cuts and scrapes incurred when enjoying the outdoors.

Make sure your pets (dogs and cats) are properly vaccinated, especially if they spend any time outdoors.

When cleaning your litter boxes, or cages, practice good hygiene and be sure to wash well afterwards. Do not place hands and fingers near your face until you are able to wash them thoroughly.

Lyme Disease  

What is Lyme Disease?

A bacterium (spirochete) transmitted by a deer tick to humans. Again, although
rarely fatal, this is a serious illness and one that requires treatment. 

Once bitten by an infected tick, the condition can surface within days or within months. This illness can be difficult to identify because the symptoms vary greatly. Also, in most instances, people do not realize that they have been infected, which prolongs the diagnosis, giving the bacteria time to insert itself.  One classic symptom that can occur is the presence of a skin rash (erythema chronicum migrans). It appears in the form of a red circular patch (size varies) that generally occurs three days to one month after the bite of an infected tick – at the site of the bite. Other symptoms that can occur within weeks, months or years after the bite by the infected tick include: arthritis (especially in the knees), nervous system abnormalities (pain, facial nerve paralysis, fever, stiff neck and severe headaches) and irregularities of the heart rhythm.

If the condition is diagnosed early enough, often several weeks of antibiotics work to cure the illness. The problem is that the symptoms of this disease mirror those of numerous other possible conditions, and all too often, Lyme Disease remains undetected and is not diagnosed for extended periods of time. As organs and the nervous system are affected and the disease progresses, treatment can become much more invasive and long term for the individual facing this illness.

If you believe you could have Lyme Disease contact your physician and request a test to determine whether you actually contracted the illness.

What can you do to prevent being bitten by an infected tick?

Be sure to use tick repellent when enjoying the outdoors.

Wear proper attire when outside, especially when hiking or on long walks through wooded, brushy areas – proper attire includes long sleeve shirts and pants (light in color) and white socks. This will allow for better visibility in the event a tick is present. 

Do a check of your clothing and hair when you return home from an outing, or come in from gardening or walking the dog –check back packs and coats because sometimes the ticks can return home with you – only to bite you later. You can use a mirror to check difficult places to see, such as your back.

Thoroughly check your children – under the arms, behind the ears, in the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs around the waist and especially in the hair.

Check your pets daily for ticks, especially after they have been outside for any length of time –and be sure that if you do find a tick on your pet that you remove it immediately.

Ask your veterinarian about preventive treatment for your pet – and have your pet checked regularly by your veterinarian for the presence of ticks.

Keep your grass mowed and wood piles away from your residence.

Inquire about (and use) yard repellents that will not harm your pets or wildlife.


What is Salmonellosis?

A bacterium (over 300 types) mostly associated with cold blooded animals (primarily turtles) and rodents. Transmission of the bacteria normally occurs through the consumption of contaminated food or from a contaminated environment – and is especially serious with regard to dehydration.

This illness will manifest within six to 72 hours after consumption of the infected material, and abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea can be expected.

The condition usually passes within two to four days. Dehydration is a major concern with this condition.

How can you prevent this disease?

Once again, common sense and good hygiene are the best means of prevention!

Also, be sure to wash produce well before you prepare your meals.

If you are a turtle owner, make sure you (and your children) wash thoroughly after interacting with your pet.

To learn more about zoonotic diseases, you can visit www.ct.gov  (search “zoonotic diseases”), or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  

Special thanks to the Connecticut Wildlife Rehabilitators Association (CWRA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for content included in this blog.


This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Deborah Galle August 05, 2012 at 05:31 PM
Leptospirosis is a terrible sickness to watch your pet or a person go through. It is important to know that it is transferred through animal urine - your pet does not have to drink contaminated water. In my blog, I reference drinking the water because that is the most common way for a human to contract the disease. Preventive measures include good personal hygiene for people, and reinforce the necessity for up to date preventive measures for your pet. Contact your pet's veterinarian to ensure that your pet is up to date on its vaccinations. Many zoonotic diseases (which can often be passed from your pets to you), can be prevented or lessened in severity with vaccinations. But it is essential to know your pet and observe your pet's behavior, just as Judy did. When you notice a change you should act in a timely manner, to ensure the best outcome for your pet.
Deborah Galle August 05, 2012 at 05:32 PM
Also, to Judy's point, older pets can be more susceptible to disease, just as older people can be. This is also true with new additions to the family - a puppy or kitten does not have a mature immune system and should be protected by the owner. In addition, Leptospirosis can be found at any time - it depends upon various factors: Different animals are more active or less active depending upon time of year and may appear closer to your home - another reason why you should not feed wild animals in your yard - feed them and they will come! Unvaccinated pets in the neighborhood can transfer the disease. Run-off due to heavy rain is another source of transmission.
Sushi August 05, 2012 at 08:31 PM
Never let your pet drink from a "community" water bowl either. As "nice" as this is for Pet stores or even places like Starbucks to have, it is a serious risk for pet owners to allow them to drink from there. Whether an animal is "healthy" or middle aged - vs. young or old w/ compomised immune systems - DO NOT USE SHARED DRINKING BOWLS for your cats or dogs. You wouldn't/shouldn't do it w/ humans or dogs or cats for that matter. Same household pets are USUALLY going to fine but unrelated dogs or cats who drink from the same bowl from a "community" water dish are risking a LOT of potential problems and COST to their owners and guardians. I can ONLY IMAGINE what that bill from VCA Shoreline ran this poster! Imp;ossible to getg out of there under $1,500 for one afternoon of Xrays, bloodwork and "preliminary" diagnostics. Treating lifethreatening illnesses such as kidney failure or other immune comprised conditions will run you EASILY $5,000 - $20,000+ there and at Cornell and all of these "ER" places. As one Vet there said to me "Should we do it for free??". Whereas I replied "NO, but should only the pets who's owners are well off enough to pay your fees get to be treated and saved???" (logical question he thought ....) To which he replied "Yes, that's the way it goes".... So people, just remember this the next time you take any sort of risk for your dog or cat. If you do not have the $$$ than you are out of luck! Sad but true.
Michael Dinan August 05, 2012 at 08:55 PM
100% agree w Sushi on the shared water bowls. My dogs have contracted viruses and infections from them at the New Canaan dog park for sure.
Ajack May 25, 2013 at 07:25 AM
For an environmental repellant for ticks and mosquitoes use the leaves of any of the Geraniums, the hardy form . Crush and rub this on your clothing particularly on your legs and sleeves . If you have ever done any gardening with this plant , you will know that the leaves give off a very pungent odor that according to researchers has a repelling effect 10 times stronger than the aroma of citronella .It works on repelling mosquitoes also. Try it because it works. Other disease from ticks include, Bartonella, Babesia and Erlicheosis along with a an unnamed Micro filarial ocular ( it can be seen in your eyes) nematode that plays some role, it is thought, in the difficulty of some to eliminate Lyme from their bodies ( works synergistic with the spirochete). Mosquitoes can transmit many worm diseases also. Look for nodules and raised areas on your skin that don't go away after you are bitten. Ivermectin works on these. Systemically kills the adults and prevents them from reproducing. You can get sick from your pets.


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