Raccoons are intelligent and funny, pigeons look innocent, squirrels are cute, moles are defenseless, and coyotes are just overgrown dogs, aren’t they? But all these animals that share our habitat pose health risks to both you and your pet. These serious health risks are in addition to the other damage that property owners face from wildlife that chooses our property and neighborhood as their home.
Groundhogs, stray dogs, stray cats, porcupines, beavers, gophers, deer, muskrats…it’s a long list and the health risks depend on your area and population of these animals.
It is essential to be aware of the potentially life-threatening diseases that feral animals in an urban environment can transfer to your household pets.
- Rabies – It rivals the plague in terms of the fear it invokes. While this virus is primarily associated with dog bites, rabies can be contracted by being bitten by many different wild animals. These include foxes, raccoons, coyotes, and bats. In fact, rabid bats are major spreaders of the disease to other animals and humans. Once, symptoms appear, this condition is almost always fatal.
You can’t tell if an animal has rabies by looking at it, but you can tell by their behavior. .Some animals m act angry when rabid. They’re hostile and will try to bite you or other animals. In the movies, animals with rabies are depicted with foaming at the mouth. That’s not quite true and another indication is animals having more saliva and that makes them drool.
Besides hostility, many animals will act timid or shy when they have rabies. This is the more common kind of behavior. This can be dangerous. A wild animal might move slowly or act tame. If you see this behavior, remember that this is not the way the animal that usually act and indicates that something could be wrong.
The only way doctors can know for sure if an animal or a person has rabies is to do a laboratory test. Treatment is inconvenient and painful. The best option is never approaching a wild animal to feed or pet it. If you see an animal acting strangely in your neighborhood, call the authorities.
- Rat-bite fever – Yes, caused by rats…but not only through bites, the Streptobacillary RBF ( say that 3 times fast) is caused by Streptobacillus moniliformis, and this can also be transmitted if you’re scratched by a rat. If there are rodents on your property, then you’re at risk. The condition leads to fever with vomiting, joint pain, muscle pain, and rash.
- Tularemia – A bacterial condition that occurs when infected rodents, squirrels, rabbits, hares, and beavers transmit the bacteria, Fransicella tularensis. Contact with dead or infected animals, and bites spread this disease. Ticks and deer fly are present where their hosts are. Bites from these pests can cause this condition resulting in lung infection, swelling of lymph glands, and skin ulcers.
- Brucellosis – A bacterial infection, brucellosis can be spread by a host of animals including bison, elk, caribou, sheep, hogs, coyotes, dogs, etc. Contact with infected animal tissue, blood, feces, or consumption of unpasteurized milk from an infected animal can result in Brucellosis. The condition results in symptoms such as fever, chills, weight loss, and infections of the metabolic organs.
- Leptospirosis – A bacterial disease that can lead to painful symptoms, such as fever, headache, chills, and if not treated in a timely manner, can be fatal. Contact with urine or tissue of infected animals can result in leptospirosis. Such contact often happens after rains, when step on contaminated soil. Rodents, cattle, swine, raccoons, and dogs carry this bacterium, when infected. Sometimes, animals do not display any symptoms, but they may still be carriers of leptospirosis. This is also true for other dangerous conditions.
- Ringworm – This is a fungal infection, also called dermatophytosis, and is passed on to humans that come in contact with infected animals. Animals commonly infected include dogs, cats, swine, rodents, birds, and hares. Because, the infection can spread from one person to another, this fungal condition can affect people in a family, colony, and more. It is characterized by a ring-shaped rash and scaly skin.
- Plague – Yes, the Plague. The most well-documented and most dreaded health risk since ancient times. Infected rodents are the most common carriers of plague. Sometimes, cats and dogs bitten by infected rodents acquire the deadly bacteria – Yersinia pestis.
Article written by experienced wildlife removal specialist Backyard Wildlife Solutions based in Pennsylvania, USA.