By Melanie Rushforth, SPCA Serving Erie County Vice President, Veterinary Services

Today is World Zoonoses Day! So, what the heck does that even mean?

World Zoonoses Day has been observed on July 6th since 1885 to honor the success of French biologist Louis Pasteur, who administered the first vaccination against zoonotic disease on this day. A zoonosis, or zoonotic disease, is an infectious disease that has jumped from a non-human animal to humans. Zoonotic pathogens may be bacterial, viral or parasitic, or may involve unconventional agents and can spread to humans through direct contact or through food, water or the environment. They represent a major public health problem around the world due to our close relationship with animals in agriculture, as companions and in the natural environment. Zoonoses can also cause disruptions in the production and trade of animal products for food and other uses.

Zoonotic diseases range from minor short-term illness to a major life-changing illness. Certain ones can even cause death.

Zoonotic pathogens can spread to humans through any contact point with domestic, agricultural, or wild animals. People living adjacent to wilderness areas or in semi-urban areas with higher numbers of wild animals are at risk of disease from animals such as rats, foxes or raccoons. Urbanization and the destruction of natural habitats increase the risk of zoonotic diseases by increasing contact between humans and wild animals.

Simple hygiene practices will drastically reduce, if not eliminate, the risk of zoonotic spread of disease from pets to people. Some of the things you can do include:

– Make sure that any sign of illness or disease in your pet is diagnosed and treated promptly by your veterinarian.

– Bathe and groom your pet. This will increase the chance of early detection of any skin lesions.

– Give your pet a broad-spectrum deworming product on a regular basis. The simplest way to do this is to use a monthly heartworm product that includes a dewormer. Prevention is key!

– Wear gloves when gardening or working in areas where dogs, cats, or other animals may have urinated or defecated.

– Pick up any feces on your property and stoop and scoop when you take your dog for a walk. Dispose of all waste materials promptly and safely.

– Always ensure you wash your hands after handling any animal.

– Provide separate food and water dishes for your pet, and wash and store them separately from your family’s dishes.

– Wash pet bedding frequently.

– Use flea and tick control products on a routine basis.

People can come in contact with animals in many places. This includes at home and away from home, in places like fairs, schools, stores, and parks. Insects, like mosquitoes and fleas, and ticks bite people and animals day and night. Thankfully, there are things you can do to protect yourself and your family from zoonotic diseases. A regular vaccination schedule and good hygiene practices will set you and your pets up for good health and a long life. If you are in search of a veterinary home, consider the Lipsey Clinic at the SPCA Serving Erie County. With monthly wellness plans including a preventative package, you will be in good hands for the long-term care of your four-legged friends. More information can be found on