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16 Contagious Diseases Wildlife and Rodents Can Pass to Your Dog

Taking your dog for a romp in the wilderness is a pleasurable and enjoyable experience for dogs and dog owners alike.

Yet taking your dog into the woods comes with its own set of risks. Chief among these is your dog catching a disease from rodents or wildlife.

These diseases range in severity from mild discomfort to potentially fatal. And they don’t only affect your dog in the wilderness. Many of them can be transmitted by wild animals and rodents in your own backyard – even in your own home.

That’s not meant to scare you. Instead, we want you to be aware of these doggie dangers, so you can adequately protect your four-legged friend from catching an otherwise preventable disease.

Furthermore, the knowledge that rodents and wildlife can spread disease gives you the awareness needed to pay closer attention to your dog’s behavior if they do encounter one of these creatures.

Here are 16 contagious diseases that wildlife and rodents can pass to your dog.

More About Contagious Diseases

A contagious disease is a disease that can be spread from one dog to another.

Some of these diseases can even be spread among different species. That means a contagious disease picked up by your dog could be spread to your other pets. Even you and your family are at risk for the transmission of certain illnesses and viruses.

Seeking the proper care is even more important when the health of your dog, your other pets, and your family is on the line.

Mice and Rats

Rodents, especially mice and rats, are one of the most common transmitters of contagious diseases to dogs.

According to a study in Pediatrics Child Health, many of the diseases dogs can catch from mice and rats can then be transmitted to humans. They go on to state that young children are especially at risk.

That’s why noticing the early symptoms of these diseases is so important. It enables you to seek the proper treatment right away.

To further reduce the risk of your dog catching a contagious disease from mice or rats, you should practice proper rodent control measures. These include:

  • Picking up dog bowls and food when not in use
  • Keeping a clean kitchen with food secured in airtight containers
  • Emptying trash on a regular basis and storing in receptacles away from house
  • Blocking holes, cracks, gaps, and other entryways into your home
  • Maintaining your yard, especially near your home

If you do notice a mice or rat infestation in your home, it’s essential to call in a pest control professional to deal with the problem.

Make sure to tell them you have pets. Some of the chemicals used by pest control companies are harmful to dogs. You must ensure your situation is dealt with in a safe, pet-friendly way.

Furthermore, you must be very aware of your dog’s interactions with mice, rats, squirrels, and other rodents during walks and wilderness jaunts.

Here are six of the most common diseases that rodents, especially mice and rats, can transmit to dogs.

1. Leptospirosis

The American Veterinary Medical Foundation lists leptospirosis as one of the most common contagious disease among dogs.

It’s very easily transmissible from rats to dogs. It can then easily be transmitted from dog to dog and even to humans.

The signs and symptoms of leptospirosis are numerous. They also vary greatly in severity.

Some dogs with the disease don’t show any symptoms. Others experience shivering, fever, muscle tenderness, and increased thirst. Some dogs experience extremely severe symptoms that can even result in death.

Leptospirosis is transmitted by rats to dogs through the rat’s urine. Most dogs catch the disease by drinking water that has infected rat urine in it.

Another way that the disease is transmitted is through open wounds. If your dog swims in water with leptospirosis in it, it can enter the body this way.

Early treatment is of leptospirosis is essential. The earlier the treatment is started, the greater the chance the dog has of surviving.

2. Toxoplasmosis

According to PetMD, toxoplasma gondii, the parasite that causes toxoplasmosis, is one of the most common parasites in the world.

It’s frequently transmitted from rats to dogs when your dog eats an infected rat. The disease can be severe enough to cause death.

It’s also extremely contagious. Dogs can transmit toxoplasmosis to other dogs, other animals and pets, and even humans.

Common signs and symptoms that a dog has toxoplasmosis include seizures, tremors, depression, fatigue, fever, and weight loss.

Note that sometimes dogs can contract the disease without showing any symptoms. In fact, symptoms of toxoplasmosis are much more common in cats. That said, puppies and pregnant dogs are at a higher risk for contracting the disease.

Despite the fact that toxoplasmosis can be fatal in dogs, most dogs with healthy immune systems are able to survive. Treatment is with medication that potentially includes a veterinary hospital visit.

3. Rat Bite Fever

Another way that rats can transmit disease to dogs is through biting and scratching.

Rat bite fever is the common name of the disease that Streptobacillus moniliformis and spirillum minus causes in dogs.

These bacteria pass through the rat bite or scratch into your dog. They can also be spread if your dog eats rat feces or eats a dead rat.

Most of the time rat bite fever isn’t very contagious, though it can be passed from dog to dog. In rare circumstances, it can be passed from dogs to humans.

Rat bite fever is relatively easy to treat most of the time. Penicillin and ampicillin are the most successful treatments.

4. Tularemia

Also known as rabbit fever, tularemia is a contagious disease caused by the bacteria Francisella tularensis.

Dogs most often catch the disease by eating infected rats. It’s also sometimes caught by drinking water that an infected rat has urinated in or died in.

Tularemia has been known to pass from dogs to humans. This is most often caused by interaction with the dog’s feces. The bacteria sometimes also pass into a human through open wounds.

PetMD states that the tularemia bacterial infection can be very serious when left untreated in dogs. It can cause severe sickness and even death.

The symptoms are similar to the symptoms of many of the other diseases caused by interaction with rodents. They include fever, lethargy, dehydration, and lack of appetite.

Early treatment is especially important for tularemia in dogs. Antibiotics are the most successful treatment and are most effective when administered as soon after contraction as possible.

5. Roundworm

Roundworm is another contagious disease often passed from mice and rats to dogs.

VCA Hospitals states that roundworm is one of the most common diseases passed from dogs to humans. They go on to say that roundworm is caused by two parasites, toxocara canis and toxascaris leonina.

Fortunately, roundworm isn’t life threatening in most dogs, especially when treated in a timely manner. However, it is much more serious in small puppies where the roundworm compromises the nutritional intake of the dog.

Most dogs with roundworm actually contract the disease from other dogs and cats. To contract the disease from a mouse or rat, the dog must eat an infected mouse or rat.

The most common sign of roundworm is actually seeing them in your dog’s feces. They appear as white spaghetti-like strands.

If your dog has roundworm, you’ll be able to tell by looking at their feces. This makes the contagious disease one of the easiest to diagnosis and treat.

6. Plague

Plague is one of the most famous diseases transmitted by rats – luckily, it’s one of the rarest for dogs to catch from these rodents.

While bubonic plague is perhaps the most well-known type of plague, two other types of plague can also infect dogs. These are pneumonic plague and septicemic plague.

All three types of plague are transmitted through rat bite. When an infected rat bites your dog, your dog might contract the disease.

The most common symptoms of plague in dogs are heavy breathing and dehydration. Vomiting and fever are also common.

Fortunately, most dogs have a high natural resistance to all three forms of plague, according to the American Veterinary Medical Foundation.

Raccoons, Skunks, and Opossums

Wild animals like raccoons, skunks, and opossums can not only injure your dog by scratching or biting, but they can also pass a number of contagious diseases along as well.

Chief among these are distemper and rabies. Both of these dog diseases are very serious and should be prevented at any cost. If your dog does contract one of these wildlife diseases, immediate treatment is necessary.

7. Distemper

Canine distemper is one of the most serious diseases a dog can catch from wildlife.

It’s most commonly spread by interactions with raccoons and skunks. Other wildlife such as wolves and foxes can also spread the disease to dogs.

PetMD states that canine distemper has no known cure. That’s why it’s so important to prevent the disease before your dog catches it.

The best way to prevent your dog from contracting distemper is to vaccinate for it. The distemper vaccination greatly reduces the risk of your dog contracting this dangerous disease.

A dog with distemper displays many noticeable signs. These symptoms include fever, red eyes, and watery discharges from the nose.

Most dogs with distemper become lethargic. As the disease progresses, the dog will become dehydrated and even anorexic. Persistent coughing is also common.

As is mentioned above, there is no known cure for canine distemper. Sometimes it progresses in dogs until death. Other times, dogs with healthy immune systems are able to fight off the disease on their own (with proper management) to live a healthy life afterwards.

The key is to prevent distemper from occurring in the first place with a vaccination.

8. Rabies

Another well-known contagious disease that dogs can pick up from wildlife is rabies.

Like distemper, rabies can be easily prevented by vaccination. However, unlike distemper, there is a cure for dogs with rabies, although it must be administered quickly.

Care.com states that the most common signs of rabies in dogs include aggression, biting, irritability, and drooling. Dogs with rabies are well-known to drool or foam at the mouth.

Rabies is fatal in dogs around a week after the signs are first noticed. That’s why it’s so important to be wary of your dog’s interactions with wildlife.

Dogs contract rabies when bitten by wild animals including raccoons, skunks, and bats. It’s essential to take your dog to the vet if they are bitten by one of these animals.

When a dog contracts rabies, they must be quarantined so as not to spread the disease to other animals or humans.

Fleas

Fleas are almost everywhere. They can survive in just about any climate that dogs live in.

Detecting interaction with fleas is especially difficult because they are so small. Chances are you won’t notice them on your dog at first.

At least not until the primary symptoms set in. Fleas bite dogs causing itchy bumps that most dogs can’t help but scratch and bite at.

According to PetCareRx, fleas are capable of causing even greater issues than just itchy bites and allergic reactions in dogs.

The organization states that fleas have been known to spread plague, tapeworm, haemobartonellosis, and flea allergy dermatitis to dogs.

9. Plague

Fleas can pick up the plague by biting infected animals. They can then spread this disease to dogs by biting them.

Though plague is relatively uncommon in dogs, it’s still something to watch out for. The most noticeable symptoms are fever and swollen lymph nodes.

Seek veterinary attention immediately if you suspect your dog has contracted plague. They must be isolated from other pets to prevent the spread of the disease.

10. Tapeworm

Another contagious disease that fleas can spread to dogs is tapeworm.

It’s relatively uncommon for dogs to pick up tapeworm from fleas because the dog actually needs to eat the flea to contract it. Furthermore, that fleas must have already been carrying tapeworm eggs inside its body.

Tapeworms commonly cause symptoms such as weight loss and vomiting in infected dogs.

A variety of over-the-counter medications are available to treat tapeworm in dogs.

11. Haemobartonellosis

Although relatively uncommon in dogs (and more often caused by ticks), haemobartonellosis is a disease that dogs can catch from fleas.

It affects the red blood cells and usually causes anemia. The anemia itself leads to weight loss as well as a faster heart rate.

Most dogs with haemobartonellosis have relatively mild symptoms. Though others do develop more severe symptoms, the disease can usually be treated with over-the-counter medications.

Ticks

Like fleas, ticks live in a wide variety of climates and can infect dogs with a number of different diseases and conditions.

Chief among these are ehrlichiosis, anaplasmosis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Of course, Lyme disease is the most well-known disease that ticks spread to dogs and humans alike.

What’s difficult about ticks is that they’re so prevalent. If your dog goes outside at all, especially in forested or grassy areas, they’re at a high risk for getting bit by a tick.

Another difficult aspect of the tick problem is that once symptoms appear the disease has often already progressed to a severe state.

Most tick-based dog diseases must be treated before symptoms appear. That’s why it’s so important to check your dog for ticks on a regular basis.

Run your hands over their bodies searching for ticks on a daily basis if you live in an area known for ticks.

You should also check your own body and those of your family members. Ticks that bite dogs often migrate from the dog to humans in the household.

12. Lyme Disease

Perhaps the most notorious disease that dogs can contract from ticks is Lyme disease.

It’s transmitted by two types of ticks: the deer tick and western black-legged tick. Although not all of these ticks have the disease, it is very common.

When left untreated, Lyme disease can become very serious. Not only that, but it can also be contracted by humans.

The tricky aspect of Lyme disease in dogs is that symptoms don’t occur right away. Most of the time symptoms don’t occur for several months after the bite.

The best way to prevent Lyme disease in dogs is to check for ticks on a daily basis. Use a tick remover tool to remove the tick as quickly as possible after the bite.

These tools enable you to pull out the tick in one piece. Other methods often cause the tick to break in two which can cause infection.

13. Ehrlichiosis

Several different species of ticks can spread canine ehrlichiosis to dogs. These include brown dog ticks and lone star ticks.

Ehrlichiosis is similar to Lyme disease in that the symptoms are often not immediately noticeable. Dogs can be infected for months before showing obvious signs.

This once again highlights the importance of checking your dog for ticks on a regular basis. The key to preventing ehrlichiosis is catching it in the very earliest of stages.

14. Canine Anaplasmosis

Deer ticks and wester black-legged ticks (the same species of ticks that spread Lyme disease) can also transmit canine anaplasmosis to dogs.

The disease targets the white blood cells. When left untreated, it leads to a variety of different bleeding disorders in dogs. These can pose a serious threat to your dog’s overall health.

Keep your eyes out for the symptoms of canine anaplasmosis. These include loss of appetite as well as lethargy. You might also notice behavioral changes as well as bruised gums or nosebleeds.

15. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

Yet another disease that dogs can catch from ticks is Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

According to Pet Coach, the disease is transmitted to dogs through tick bite. They go on to state that the most common symptoms are fever, weight loss, and depression.

Like the other diseases caused by ticks, Rocky Mountain spotted fever ranges in severity. Some dogs experience only mild symptoms and recover quickly. Others experience severe symptoms that can become lethal if left untreated.

Fortunately, treatment for the disease is available. It’s been proven very effective when used in a timely manner.

That’s why it’s so important to inspect your dog for signs of ticks on a regular basis. It’s often the only way to catch diseases caused by ticks in their early stages.

Fish

Salmon poisoning disease, often shortened to “fish disease,” is a disease that dogs can pick up from raw fish.

It’s most commonly transmitted from salmon, but it can also be contracted from other fish that swim up rivers to spawn.

16. Salmon Poisoning Disease

According to the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine, salmon poisoning disease can be fatal.

It’s extremely important to seek veterinary attention as soon as you notice symptoms. It’s even better to seek professional help immediately if you see your dog eat raw fish (especially salmon).

The most common symptoms to keep an eye out for include vomiting, lack of appetite, fever, and diarrhea.

Even though salmon poisoning disease can be fatal to dogs, it’s fairly easy to treat if treatment is started early.

Final Thoughts

Dogs can catch a wide variety of contagious diseases from wildlife and rodents, ranging from rats to raccoons to ticks and more.

The key to limiting the negative effects of these diseases is prevention. Ensure your home is free of rodents, fleas, and other pests. Keep your dog up-to-date on vaccinations for the most common diseases, including distemper and rabies.

Even more important, learn your dog’s behaviors and watch for changes. Loss of appetite, unexplained weight loss, and other physical and behavioral changes are signs that something might be wrong.

The key to keeping your dog safe and sound from disease is limiting their contact with wildlife, rodents, and insects to prevent them from catching these contagious diseases in the first place.

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