Worms & Germs Blog

Lyme Disease and Dogs Infographic

Posted in Dogs

OAHN Infographic - Ticks & Lyme - GF2 20160512The Ontario Animal Health Network – Companion Animal has released a new infographic on Ticks and Lyme Disease in Ontario: What’s The Real Risk?  It’s obviously Ontario-centric but some of the messages apply more broadly. It’s important to consider what the real risk of exposure is, and that involves thinking about things like how common Borrelia burgdorferi (the cause of Lyme disease) is in ticks in the region, the type of tick that was attached and how long it might have been attached, along with (importantly) whether any signs of disease are present. This varies regionally, and knowing what’s going on in your area is important for understanding the risk.

Click the image to download a pdf copy of the inforgraphic (8.5″x 14″).


Tiny Turtles, Big Problems

Posted in Reptiles, Salmonella

The CDC has updated information on the ongoing (if not ever-present) salmonellosis outbreaks linked to pet turtles. At last count, there were 133 illnesses (although it’s likely that this represents a fraction of the people that actually got sick), with 38 of those requiring hospitalization. Forty-one percent (41%) were kids under the age of five, reflecting both the increased contact kids have with turtles and their increased susceptibility to disease.

More details can be found on the CDCs webpage on Salmonella outbreaks (where you can also find information on Salmonella outbreaks related to things other than turtles).  The CDC also has an infosheet on the topic entitled “The Trouble with Tiny Turtles“. We also have a turtle infosheet on the Worms & Germs Resources – Pets page.

1 copy

Animals in Child Care Facilities: New Guidance

Posted in Birds, Cats, Dogs, Other animals, Pocket pets, Reptiles

Animals are not uncommonly found in daycares and other childcare settings.

  • Sometimes, it’s good: animals can be entertaining, animal contact can have various benefits to children, and animals can be part of learning activities.
  • Other times, it’s not: such as the presence of species at higher risk for shedding certain pathogens, poor management that increases the risk of pathogen exposure, bites or scratches, or poor management that leads to animal distress.

Two chicksA lot of thought should go into animal selection (both yes/no, and selection of a specific pet) and how the animal(s) is/are managed. Too often, there’s limited consideration of these important issues. There’s also been a dearth of good guidance information. To that end, the Ontario Ministry of Health and Longterm Care has just released a Guidance Document for the Management of Animals in Child Care Centres, 2016. (Click here to download.)

Canine flu strikes again – Illinois

Posted in Dogs, Vaccination

Sleeping yorkieCanine influenza has once again reared its ugly head in fairly spectacular fashion, this time in Bloomington, IL.  Apparently there have been numerous laboratory-confirmed cases, and also many suspected cases, and likely still more cases that have gone completely unreported.  It’s estimated that “hundreds” of dogs may have been affected already – it’s very difficult to get accurate numbers, but clearly there are a lot of sick dogs.  It’s a good example of what can happen when a highly contagious virus like the flu gets into a relatively naive population.  There are vaccines available for one kind of canine flu (H3N8), but it’s unknown if the vaccines offer any protection against the other type that was found in dogs in the Chicago area in 2015 (H3N2).  There are also two conditionally licensed vaccines in the US for the H3N2 canine flu (but same problem the other way). There is no word yet on which flu type may be the culprit in Bloomington.

The article published last week in the local paper talks about a number of smart precautions being taken by veterinarians and dog owners that will hopefully help stem the tide of transmission.  These include:

  • Keeping sick dogs at home whenever possible: for many dogs, illness is relatively mild and can be managed at home rather than at the veterinary clinic.  The most important thing is to avoid contact with other dogs so as to prevent further spread.
  • Keeping sick dogs out of the clinic waiting room: for dogs that are sick enough that they require more treatment, vets have been examining the animals in owners’ cars, or asking owners to bring them into the clinic through a separate entrance.
  • Consider vaccinating dogs, particularly if they have contact with lots of other dogs: this includes dogs that are boarded, go to the groomer regularly, or stay at doggy daycare.  It takes several weeks for immunity to develop after vaccination, so it won’t help with transmission in the short term, but may help if the outbreak lingers on for a while.
  • Avoid dog parks until the outbreak passes: because dogs can shed the virus before they show clinical signs of illness, during a high risk period like this it is a good idea to avoid letting your dog come in contact any dog you don’t know (and maybe even some of the dogs you do), even if it looks healthy.

There are also a number of good resources, including a “Pet Owner’s Guide to Canine Influenza” available on the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) website.

Hopefully we’ll hear some more details (and some strain typing) about this outbreak in the next few weeks.  For the time being, canine flu has yet to be found in Canada, but summer travelers should be aware of local disease outbreaks like this and talk to their veterinarian about what precautions they can take (including vaccination) to help avoid bring flu virus (and other bugs) back across the border when they return home.

Equine Biosecurity Standards

Posted in Horses

Biosecure horse farmThe Canadian Food Inspection Agency (which, despite the name, deals with broader animal issues as well, not just those related to food), in conjunction with a variety of partners, has developed a National Farm and Facility Level Biosecurity Standard for the Equine Sector. It’s a comprehensive overview of best practices for infectious disease control in the equine world, something that’s always a challenge given the nature of horses and how we use them.

Since we’re in Canada, nous avons aussi une version en français.

More Turtle-Associated Salmonellosis

Posted in Reptiles, Salmonella

turtle-in-the-waterIn what shouldn’t come as a surprise, I guess, another pet turtle-associated multistate outbreak of Salmonella infection in people has been identified in the US. Despite the fact that the sale of small (<4 inch shell length) turtles has been banned in the US for decades, the law is widely ignored, and kids get sick as a result.

The current outbreak sounds pretty typical:

  • 124 cases have been reported from 22 states. As usual for salmonellosis, it is expected that 124 is the vast minority of affected people because cases often go undiagnosed.
  • A large percentage (41%) of affected individuals are kids  less than 5 years of age. They are more likely to put these turtles in their mouths and have other close contacts with them, are less likely to wash their hands properly, and by virtue of their age are also more susceptible to infection.
  • Four Louisiana turtle farms have been identified as potential sources.

Eradication of Salmonella from pet turtles is an impossible goal. So, the important aspects of preventing outbreaks like this are keeping turtles away from high risk people (especially young kids) and using good hygiene and management practices.

More information about turtles and safe turtle management can be found on the Worms & Germs Resources – Pets page.  Also check out the recent infographics on management of reptiles and amphibians from the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Ontario Raccoon Rabies Update

Posted in Rabies

Raccoon rabies continues to be a concern in the Hamilton, Ontario area. After being eradicated in Ontario for years over a decade, raccoon rabies snuck back into the province late last year. Intensive surveillance and baiting efforts by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) continue.  Almost half a million oral rabies vaccine baits have been distributed in the area since the beginning of April to try to vaccinate local wildlife.  Animal owners can do their part to help by making sure their pets’ vaccinations are up-to-date, keeping pets away from wildlife, and reporting suspicious wildlife to local animal control.

Here is the latest control zone and case plot, as well as the current baiting map.  As of April 19, 90 cases of raccoon-variant rabies have been detected (61 in raccoons, and 29 in skunks).

The time series of maps can be found on the OMAFRA rabies website .

baiting maprabies_surveillance_and_control_04_19_2016_v2

Public Health Agency of Canada: Healthy Pets, Healthy People

Posted in Other animals, Pocket pets, Reptiles

The Public Health Agency of Canada, along with various partners (including the Worms&Germs team), has developed a set of informational postcards and a poster targeting pet owners and prospective pet owners.  They emphasize five critical steps for safe pet ownership and provide a visual reminder using infographic icons:

  • WASH (your hands)
  • DISINFECT (contaminated surfaces and objects)
  • SEPARATE (animals and their supplies from food areas)
  • SUPERVISE (children with pets)
  • PROTECT (yourself and your family by making smart choices about a new pet)

The sheets can be downloaded by clicking the links below:

Healthy Pets, Healthy People (8.5″ x 11″poster, general)

Reptiles and Amphibians (two-sided postcard)

Rodents (two-sided postcard)

More information on their campaigns can be found on the PHAC Facebook page.

poster-healthy-animals-affiche-animaux-en-sante-eng copy postcard-rodents-carte-rongeurs-vivants-eng copy postcard-reptiles-and-amphibians-carte-reptiles-et-amphibiens-eng copy title

Lawsuit To Euthanize Neighbours’ Dog for Rabies Testing, Florida

Posted in Dogs, Rabies

Judge gavelA Florida couple is suing their neighbour in an attempt to get the neighbour’s dog euthanized for rabies testing. The dog attacked the couple’s beagle, and the wife was bitten while intervening (as was her sister). Because there was a bite, it’s important to consider the potential for rabies exposure and take appropriate actions. But is this the right thing to do?

A few import facts to consider first:

  • Rabies is very rare in dogs in the US. However, it does occur and it’s bad, so it can’t be overlooked.
  • There are two ways to determine if a dog that bit someone was able to transmit rabies. One is to euthanize it and test the brain. The other is to monitor it for 10 days. If it’s still alive and healthy at that point, it could not have transmitted rabies at the time of the bite. That’s the most common approach.

Kantor’s husband, neurologist Dr. Daniel Kantor, said he had to resort to the suit because his wife can’t undergo preventive rabies treatments. He said she has an auto-immune system disorder that would make the treatments a risk to her health.

  • A realistic concern but one that has no relevance here. The dog doesn’t need to be euthanized to determine whether or not treatment is needed. The fact that one of the plaintiffs is a neurologist is an interesting twist. It’s sad that he doesn’t understand some basic aspects of this neurological disease.

Broward animal control officials quarantined Zina, who is owned by Joan and Irwin Mandel, and say the dog posed no rabies risk when it attacked, but Crystal Kantor doesn’t trust that.

  • So we should euthanize dogs when people just don’t like the answer they get, especially when it’s an answer supported by numerous guidelines and scientific fact?

Suing makes no sense. For one thing, it’s an unnecessarily confrontational approach to solving a simple problem (or, it’s a way to escalate a problem when someone doesn’t like the answer they’ve gotten). It’s too bad it has to come to something that wastes a lot of time and money.

Two, by the time this gets sorted out in court, I assume the 10 day quarantine period will have passed. Any decision would be completely irrelevant at that point.

I understand the sensitivity that comes with rabies exposure. I’ve been there myself. However, it’s important that facts and reason win out. This dog needs a 10-day quarantine, and that’s it, from a rabies standpoint. Figuring out why it bit and how to prevent if from happening again is an important issue but something that’s not related to the rabies lawsuit.

More information about rabies and about bites can be found on the Worms & Germs Resources – Pets page.

Raw Pet Food and Human Salmonellosis Outbreak

Posted in Cats, Dogs, Salmonella

Raw meatAccording to an alert from the College of Veterinarians of British Columbia:

The BC Centre for Disease Control is collaborating with BC health authorities, the Public Health Agency of Canada, and Health Canada to investigate an outbreak of Salmonella infections in British Columbia likely related to raw pet food. Raw pet food is food served to pets that contains raw animal proteins like meat, bones, organs, and eggs.

Four British Columbians who feed their pets raw food diets have become infected with the same strain of Salmonella. The exact source of the Salmonella is unknown but investigations are ongoing. Infections can occur during handling of raw meat, including raw pet food, or from pets shedding the bacteria. Animals can carry Salmonella bacteria but show no signs of illness.

I haven’t seen any other details yet and hopefully contact tracing is narrowing it down to the food type. It would be good to know how widespread exposure might be, since foodborne disease is markedly under-reported and if 4 cases of salmonellosis were confirmed, it’s likely that many more have actually occurred. Diagnosed case numbers tend to be the minority because they miss people that had mild disease and didn’t go to the doctor, situations where fecal testing was not recommended by the physician, or where the requested fecal samples were not collected.

Raw meat feeding inherently poses some risk to pets and households. It’s of particular concern when there are high-risk individuals (old, young, pregnant, immunocompromised) or high risk pets (similar groups) in the household, as members of these groups are more likely to get sick and more likely to have serious illness.

More information about raw meat feeding, including recommendations to reduce the risk for those who still want to do it, is available on the Worms & Germs Resources – Pets page, under the infosheet for raw meat.