How to protect yourself and your pet from shared diseases

Several studies have pointed out that pets decrease stress for humans & promote relaxation. They have a positive impact on almost all stages of life. They promote an active lifestyle, influence social, emotional & cognitive development in children & have even been able to detect oncoming epileptic seizures in advance. It turns out that apart from sharing compassion for each other, pets and their human parents might end up sharing disease as well.

zoonotic diseases awareness

Pet parents should be aware that pets also carry germs which can make humans sick & vice versa. While diseases passed from animals to humans are known as Zoonosis, diseases passed from humans to pets are called Reverse Zoonosis. Zoonotic diseases have a wide range from minor short-term illness to major life-changing sickness which can even be fatal.

Common Zoonotic Diseases in Humans

Here is a list of the most common dog diseases that affect humans.

Campylobacter spp. (Campylobacteriosis) – This spreads through contaminated water, foods like meat & eggs or contact with stool of the pet. While pets show no signs of illness, humans can have abdominal pain, cramping, fever & diarrhea within 2 – 5 days after exposure. This can be serious for infants & older persons.

Dipylidium Caninum (Dog Tapeworm) – This is a parasite which spreads to cats & dogs through ingestion of infected fleas. It is common but rarely causes illness in pets or humans. Tapeworms are often detected crawling near anus or in fresh bowels. Pets may, however, lose weight & have mild diarrhea in severe infection. One of the most common diseases caused by dog feces, children mostly get infected but generally do not show signs of disease.

Ancylostoma Caninum (Zoonotic Hookworm) – These are tiny worms which spread through contact with contaminated sand or soil. Pets become infected by accidentally ingesting the parasite from the environment. Young puppies are mostly affected & may have dark & bloody stool with anemia. Severe infection can even lead to death. Humans become infected with this while sitting, kneeling or walking barefoot on ground contaminated with stool of the infected pet.

Rabies – This is a fatal neurologic disease caused by a virus & found in pets & humans as well. It is one of the highly infectious animal diseases. Humans are mostly infected through bites of rabid pets. Signs & symptoms in infected dogs are sudden behavioral change & progressive paralysis. However, rabies can be prevented by vaccination. Signs & symptoms in humans include a headache, fever & a generalized weakness which in a few days can progress to anxiety, confusion, behavioral changes & delirium. Contact the doctor immediately when bitten by a pet because once symptoms appear it is always too late.

Toxocara spp. (Roundworm) – These cause a parasitic disease called toxocariasis. Both pets & humans can get infected by accidentally swallowing roundworm eggs from the environment. Larval worms can also travel through the mother dog & infect puppies which do not develop & grow well & display a pot-bellied appearance. Among humans, children are most often affected with roundworm. Of the two forms of disease in humans, the first is caused by ocular larva migrans when they invade retina to cause inflammation & scarring or even blindness. The other visceral larva migrans invade parts of the body like lungs, liver or the central nervous system.

Common Reverse Zonotic Diseases Affecting Pets

Although Reverse Zoonosis is a rare phenomenon but it does occur. Here is a list of diseases which pets can pick up from humans.

Ringworm –
Also known as Dermatophytosis, Ringworm is an infection of skin affecting both pets & humans. Caused by a fungus it shows circular areas of redness in humans which can be itchy. Similar circular patches of baldness are also seen in cats & dogs. The disease is transmitted through direct contact or through contaminated objects like clothing, towels or brushes. Ringworm is one of the most common 2-way human-pet infectious diseases known to mankind.

Influenza –
This is the H1N1 flu virus which is fatal to both pets & humans. Cats, dogs & ferrets have been identified with H1N1 flu virus which has come from humans. Signs & symptoms are similar in both pets & humans. These are respiratory disease, inappetence & death sometimes. It makes good sense to stay away from family pets if you are suffering from signs & symptoms of genuine flu.

Mumps –
This is a viral disease which causes fever & a headache in humans. It is followed by the characteristic painful swelling of parotid glands in the neck region. In some cases exceptionally serious complications are possible. Thanks to vaccinations this disease rarely appears nowadays. Primarily a childhood disease it can also affect adults sometimes. It can affect dogs too who show similar symptoms. So be sure to stay away from family pets if you are having mumps.

Salmonella – Basically linked to food poisoning, this is also a 2-way disease which can move from humans to pets & vice versa. Signs & symptoms of Salmonella include nausea, headache, fever, vomiting, diarrhea & abdominal cramps. However, cats & dogs are more resistant to the disease, but the risk is always there. Rigorous hygiene should be put in place in order to avoid family pets being exposed to human gastrointestinal bacteria.

Tuberculosis (TB) – This is a chronic respiratory infectious disease caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex. TB can affect all warm-blooded mammals including pets & humans. Signs & symptoms of TB in pets include coughing, weight loss, lumps, abscesses & bite wounds which fail to heal. Cats & dogs can become infected with TB orally by drinking unpasteurized infected cow’s milk or eating carcasses of infected animals. Close contact with infected wildlife, farm animals & other infected pets & humans can also cause TB. Being bitten by an infected animal or when a wound gets infected by bacteria present in the environment can also cause TB in pets.

Prevention is better than Cure
Diseases passed from animals to humans are rare. But when they do they can cause a variety of illnesses that range from minor skin infections to many serious diseases. Diseases caused by dog feces are most common. Take the following measures to protect your family & pet from falling sick.

  • Sensible to seek routine veterinary care for the pet
  • Wash your hands with soap & teach children to do the same after contact with pets, their stool & their food.
  • There are various instruments and tools available to clean pet poop. Please use gloves, poop pickers and other relevant equipment that can keep you safe from coming in contact with pet feces.

Routine veterinary care & some simple health tips will save the family members & pets from falling sick from touching & petting family pets.

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