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Shared Diseases Between Cats and Dogs

A bulldog and a kitten sitting together

Various Diseases That Can be Passed between Cats and Dogs

If you have a cat and a dog, there is a chance that they will get a disease that can be shared from one to the other. Most diseases that affect cats and dogs are usually species-specific, meaning that they don’t spread, but, there are a few that can be shared, and if not properly treated, can cause problems down the road. Prevention is the key to protecting your pets, so it’s wise to be aware of any possible illnesses and to keep your pets safe.

The majority of these particular diseases are actually treatable. In some cases they’re not, which is why it’s important to be extra careful when you notice your cat or dog not feeling all that well. Should any of these diseases become apparent in your pets, please bring them to your Austin veterinarian right away.

Worms and Parasites

Worms are extremely nasty critters, and they are common problems for both cats and dogs, as they are easy to transmit. Especially in intestinal worms, the larvae, including hookworms, roundworms, tapeworms and whipworms, is often found in a pet’s feces. If your pets often relieve themselves in the same place, they may have greater access to these parasites. Should a cat step on a dog’s feces and then lick their paws, they can transmit microscopic eggs into their system and get sick.

Here are some examples of tapeworm transmission:

  • Should your cat or dog have a tapeworm, and if they have fleas, a flea can easily consume a tapeworm egg, then land on the other pet, and if the pet eats the flea, then the tapeworm has spread from one pet to another.
  • If you have a litter box for your cat, your dog may take the initiative to use it as well. Do everything you can to keep your dog away from your cat’s litter box.
  • If your cat is affected by roundworms, then your dog has a chance to ingest roundworm eggs and become infected as well.

Whipworms and hookworms are also shared through contact with each other’s feces, but this is primarily through dogs and rarely via cats. If you suspect that your cat or dog may be infected with any of these parasites, contact your Austin vet. There are many oral or injectable dewormer treatments available that can help them.


Ringworm, also know as Dermatophytosis, is not actually a worm, but more of a fungus that has a circular shape, like a ring. It’s a fungal infection of the skin that can cause an itchy and scaly rash. In some cases it looks more like a hot spot, but has a more perfect circular shape on dogs and a more irregular shape on cats.Ringworm can be spread from one pet to the other through direct contact. Spores can live on bedding, blankets, towels, carpeting and grooming tools and can also be spread through contact with these items, so be sure to keep them clean at all times. If your pets go outside, these dermatophytes can live in soil for months in soil, so they are likely to make contact if they roll around in infected soil.

Most adult animals, mainly long-haired cats, don’t always show signs of ringworm infection. Puppies and kittens can have patches that are hairless, circular, or irregularly shaped areas of scaling, crusting, and redness that can be itchy. The area in question may not be completely hairless, and may feature brittle, broken hairs. If the pet’s claws are affected, they may appear white or cloudy with a shredding of the claw’s surface. If you suspect your pet has ringworm, contact a veterinarian.

Pets and the Common Cold

Dogs and cats can get the common cold just like us humans. Also known as “kennel cough,” bordetella bronchisceptica is an unpleasant bacteria that can give dogs flu-like symptoms. This bacteria is highly contagious and can easily be spread via airborne droplets to cats if they’re in the same environment with an infected dog. Both cats and dogs can experience the same symptoms: fever, lethargy, discharge from the nose and eyes, coughing and sneezing. These are the same symptoms of feline upper respiratory infection, so it may be difficult for your Austin vet to conclude which pathogen is responsible for your pet’s illness. The good thing is that there is an intranasal vaccine available for both cats and dogs to help protect them from this.


Rabies is a virus that affects the central nervous system of mammals. Why many associate rabies as something that affects dogs, it’s actually more frequent in cats, especially in the US. Overall, rabies can infect practically any mammal. Let’s say that your cat is bitten by a rabid wild animal, and then he/she bites a dog, the dog can then be infected with rabies, and so on. The virus starts at the origin of the bite and courses its way through the body and into the nervous system, until it hits the brain. Once rabies reaches the brain, the infected animal will start showing various symptoms, including behavioral changes, aggression or excessive excitement, drooling or swallowing issues, and possible paralysis. Once the brain is affected by rabies, your pet will most likely die within seven days.

The cat or dog doesn’t necessarily have to be bitten by a rabid animal; even coming in contact with a rabid animal’s saliva can help to transmit rabies through an open wound or a mucous membrane. Humans can contract rabies by this method as well as by being bitten by a rabid animal.

Rabies symptoms aren’t immediately obvious in cats, but it’s extremely dangerous should they be infected. The disease often incubates after initial exposure, which can last up to several weeks or even a year where there is no sign of infection. Once your cat begins to show rabies symptoms, there are no options to help them. No treatment for rabies in cats is available.

The rabies vaccine is mandatory in most US states. As of 2020, there are 39 states which require mandatory rabies vaccine for dogs, and 34 for cats.

If you suspect your pets may have any of these disorders, please call ATX Animal Clinic as soon as possible. Through comprehensive exams and evaluations, diagnostic testing and procedures, we’ll work with you to uncover the root cause of your pet’s illness.