Dr. Andrew Pepper


The local veterinarian, who will give a speech at Southampton Hospital next week on the dangers of communicable animal diseases, on prevention, detection and protecting your family.

What are some of the problems the pediatricians at Southampton Hospital need to be aware of?

The most common is bite wounds and making sure the doctors are up to date on what the rabies protocols are. There is a whole guideline for what you are supposed to do. If the animal has been vaccinated for rabies, then there is not much work; if the animal has not been vaccinated for rabies then it opens a whole can of worms. Luckily we don’t really have rabies out here – we do have it on Long Island, and one day it could be here, so the doctors need to know what the rabies protocol is.

What do we have to be worried about locally?

Worms. It’s a really big thing, but it’s really easy to fix. People who have horses worm them every three months. Worming is cheap, and there shouldn’t be parasites out there. We are lucky where we are, because we have these wonderful winters that knock everything out. In the South it never really gets cold enough to kill the eggs.

A classic case of worms comes from the sand box – kids use their hands and ingest the dirt with parasites. You can also get it if you work in the garden. If you wear gloves you can prevent that; but when you are talking about little kids, they don’t do that. They put little things in their mouth. It’s also very common that people get parasites from visiting tropical islands, with big feral cat populations. They can get hook worms through their feet.

My message to the doctors is to think about these things.

Do you have a sense of how many animals out here end up with a parasite of some sort?

A good 10 percent of animals come back positive and they can get them when they come back from the pet stores. You have to remember parasites are communicable through the dirt. The feces goes through the dirt and the parasites could be communicable through the dirt. I had one dog in East Hampton that came back positive for three different things. We tested it once, it came back positive for coxcidia [a parasite that infects intestines] and we did another fecal [test] which came back positive for three other things.

How can people avoid contracting communicable diseases?

Pregnant women should not handle litter. You can worm your animal every three or four months, you can do fecal tests from time to time. Try to keep your animal from eating birds and rodents. That’s how the eggs get passed along is through the meat.

Are these diseases transmittable by saliva?

Well rabies can be transmitted that way. Most of the stuff is through the feces and the urine. A lot of them we don’t have here, but people travel all over the place. The big thing with the doctors is getting them to know what is out there. The big ticket item would be rabies protocol and worms. Those are the two big common things.

What about dealing with reptiles –are there any diseases specific to them?

That brings up a good point; there is salmonella you can get from such animals like turtles.

How can you avoid getting these diseases?

Washing your hands after handling them and washing your hands after handling the water that they were in. If you were really interested in finding it you could do cultures on the animal.

What about hamsters, guinea pigs and rodents?

There was the Hanta virus that was over on Shelter Island; that wasn’t that long ago. That was a respiratory disease. But that is another example of something caught from an animal. Or the West Nile virus, which you can get from mosquitoes from birds.

What do you suggest people or physicians need to be aware of?

Having it on their list of differentials – it has to be in the back of your mind. If you are not thinking about it you’ll never come up with it. There is also the flip side, which is the physician goes overboard with it. They will tell the pregnant lady that they have to get rid of their cat. And it doesn’t have to be that way.

What will be the number one thing you would like to tell the doctors at the Southampton Hospital?

Bite wounds is the number one thing, I have an article on that that I will leave for them. But also body-language wise, kids send out all the wrong messages to animals.

What are some signs that something is wrong with an animal?

Every animal is different, but normally step one is eating or not eating. Most dogs eat – if they are not eating that is usually a sign that something is wrong. Or you could take their temperature, 102.5 is normal. But getting up and getting around, check their energy level.