Giardia are single-celled organisms (protozoa) that can infect both people and pets, such as dogs, cats, and even chinchillas. Giardiasis (the disease caused by Giardia) can lead to diarrhea and occasionally blood in the stool and vomiting. Giardia live in the small intestine and have two lifecycle stages: the first is the cyst stage. These cysts are inactive and shed through feces. Shedding of cysts can last days or even weeks. Once the cysts are ingested by a host, they mature and multiply in the small intestine. These mature parasites go on to produce cysts and the cycle is repeated.
Infection occurs when an animal or person accidentally ingests the cysts shed through the feces of an infected animal. Oftentimes, Giardia is transmitted through contact with a contaminated object or environment, such as water or soil that have been tainted with feces. Different species of Giardia infect different animals. From what we know, species that infect dogs do not infect cats and vice versa. It is also quite rare for the dog species to infect humans.
Rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus 2 (RHDV2) is a highly contagious and usually fatal virus that affects both wild and domestic (“pet”) rabbits. The virus can be transmitted not only from rabbit to rabbit, but via food, bedding, or other contaminated materials.
A vaccination for the virus has existed for years in Europe and other parts of the world, but not in the United States. In October 2021, a new U.S.-developed vaccine received emergency authorization from the USDA. In preliminary studies, the vaccine proved highly effective in preventing disease with minimal side effects.
The vaccine series consists of the initial vaccine and a booster shot approximately 3 weeks after the initial dose. A rabbit is considered fully protected two weeks after the booster shot.
Zoonotic diseases or zoonoses are diseases that can be passed from animals to humans. Zoonoses are caused by microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, parasites, or fungi. These microbes spread between animals and people in the following ways:
Direct contact – spread directly through immediate contact with an infected animal, including its saliva, blood, urine, mucus, and feces. Infections can spread through a direct touch, bite, or scratch.
Indirect contact – spread indirectly through contact with contaminated areas or objects, such as soil infected by an animal’s feces or a pet’s food dish contaminated by bacteria.
Vector-borne – spread through a “middleman” that carries the disease from animals to people. Common vectors that spread disease between people and pets include fleas, ticks, and mosquitos.
Foodborne – spread through eating contaminated food, such as raw or undercooked meat, unpasteurized milk, or fresh produce contaminated by the feces of an infected animal. Either pet food or human food can be contaminated and cause illness.
Waterborne – spread through drinking or direct contact with water contaminated by the urine or feces of an infected animal.
It is possible for an animal to be infected with a microorganism and show no signs of illness. However, the animal will still be able to pass along the microorganism to people and cause illness or vice versa.
Native to the Andes Mountains of South America, Guinea pigs are rodents that are common pets in the United States. Also called cavies, there are several common breeds including the Abyssinian (rough, short coat with cowlicks), the American/ English (classic shorthair) and the Peruvian (longhair). Guinea pigs are herbivores and need to feed continuously, therefore they produce fecal pellets continuously. Like rabbits, guinea pigs will form softer stools called cecotropes that they will ingest throughout the day. Guinea pigs typically live 5-8 years and are very social animals that do well in pairs or trios. It is important to note that guinea pigs and rabbits should not be housed together as rabbits can carry bacteria called Bordetella Bronchiseptica which, while usually harmless to rabbits, can be fatal to guinea pigs.
Pet rabbits are descended from the European wild rabbit, Oryctolagus cuniculus. There are well over 50 breeds, including giant, medium, and dwarf breeds. Rabbits are classified as lagomorphs, not rodents, because of the presence of an extra set of upper incisors called “peg” teeth. Both the incisors and molars continue to grow throughout a rabbit’s life. Rabbits are herbivores and feed continuously. In the wild, rabbits primarily eat grasses. Digestion in rabbits occurs mainly in the hindgut (cecum), and this high fiber grass maintains normal gastrointestinal activity and fermentation. It is normal for rabbits to eat their “soft” stools (cecotropes) during the night. These re-ingested fecal pellets provide important proteins and vitamins.