This summer, a dog in New Mexico and a cat in Colorado have been diagnosed with the plague. The disease does still persist, despite it normally being associated in people’s minds with the Middle Ages. The plague doesn’t get much press these days because it’s actually fairly easy to treat with antibiotics, which didn’t exist back in the days when it killed millions of people. Of course, successful treatment depends on the condition being diagnosed in the first place.
The plague is caused by the bacteria Yersina pestis, which most commonly is transmitted to pets through flea bites or through hunting infected rodents or other animals. People can become sick through close contact with an infected animal or through flea bites. The plague is most commonly diagnosed in the western or southwestern parts of the United States.
The symptoms of the plague depend on where the disease localizes in the body. Fever, loss of appetite, and lethargy are common as are swollen lymph nodes that may rupture and drain pus. Vomiting, diarrhea, coughing and difficulty breathing can also be seen when the bacteria travels to the lungs and throughout the body.
To differentiate the plague from other diseases that cause similar symptoms, your veterinarian will have to send samples of blood, tissue, or pus to a laboratory for testing. Once diagnosed, the plague can be treated with antibiotics like Doxycycline and supportive care. Infected individuals should be quarantined until they pose little risk of passing the disease on to people or animals. The best way to protect you and your pet from the plague is to use an effective flea preventative throughout the year.