A Straight Dope Classic from Cecil's Storehouse of Human Knowledge

Can animals get VD?

April 13, 1990

Dear Cecil:

Are there animal venereal diseases? Pet-care books don't have much to say on the subject. Can you help? I've got to know.

Cecil replies:

Keep your hands off that airedale, you deve. I can't claim to have made much of a study of the matter, but Kit Schwartz, author of The Male Member (1985), reports as follows:

"Venereal disease appears to be a rarity in all wild species. Not so fortunate are domestic animals, especially those given artificial insemination [or worse]. It is presumed that animals in the wild are protected because the VD organisms are not in constant transmission (VD cells are short-lived or frail until they multiply in the protection of a body) due, in part, to harem-style mating and the female having a briefer sexual time span." More than you need to know, if you ask me.

Maybe so, but here's some more anyway

Dear Cecil:

Recently you wrote that venereal diseases are rare in wild species. However, they do exist in almost all domestic species, and some of these maladies are quite odd in their nature and presentation.

Dogs can transmit TVT, or transmissible veneral tumor. They can also transmit disease-causing bacteria such as Brucella canis, which frequently localizes in the canine prostate or other regions of the male canine urogenital tract.

Horses are also susceptible to venereal diseases. People in the horsebreeding industry know of the meticulous cleaning procedures used when horses from different farms are brought together for breeding. A herpes virus specific to horses, EHV-3, causes coital exanthema. This disease is transmitted venereally and causes lesions on the penis and vulva of horses. A number of other equine diseases are also considered by some to be venereal.

Cattle are notorious for transmission of venereal diseases. A protozoal rascal called Trichomonas fetus can cause fertility problems, abortions, and uterine infections. The organism is transmitted during coitus.

This list is by no means complete. All domestic species that I am familiar with transmit a variety of organisms during coitus. Frequently these organisms cause urogenital disease and in some cases systemic problems, as do their counterparts in humans.

Cecil replies:

Thanks, Scott. This has brightened up all our lives.

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