At least 70 different diseases can be transmitted from pets to people.
They may be acquired from direct contact with infected animals or from animals’ excreta.
Sometimes just breathing the air in vicinity of man cause illness.
“We are so fond of one another, because our ailments are same.”
There is a close association between companion animals and human population that may lead to transmission of zoonotic diseases from animals to human beings.
Two-third of domestic animals are reservoirs for many zoonotic diseases.
The incidences of zoonotic diseases depend on the number of infected animals, route of transmission, level of interaction between man and animals and existing preventive and control measures.
Pet animals kept for pleasures and companionship are usually domesticated and selectively bred for co-existence with human beings, besides their value as pets they also serve utilitarian purposes protecting homes and property, destroying vermin and providing means of transport sometimes.
Among emerging or re-emerging zoonoses, viral diseases, such as rabies (mainly from dog pet trade or travel abroad), but also feline cowpox and newly recognized noroviruses or rotaviruses or influenza viruses can sicken our pets and be transmitted to humans.
Bacterial zoonoses include bacteria transmitted by bites or scratches, such as pasteurellosis or cat scratch disease, leading to severe clinical manifestations in people because of their age or immune status and also because of our closeness, not to say intimacy, with our pets.
Examples of different diseases transmitted from different species of companion animals:
1. Dogs – Cutaneous larva migrans (CLM), Visceral larva migrans (VLM), Hydatidosis, Rabies, Leptospirosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF), Roundworm infection
2. Cats – Rabies, Toxoplasmosis, Campylobacter infection, Cat scratch disease, Toxocariasis
3. Love birds – Psittacosis, Avian tuberculosis, Histoplasmosis, Campylobacteriosis
Protection from zoonotic diseases of pets:
- Keep your pets properly housed and clean
- Acquire / buy / adopt pets from a reliable dealer or person who practices good sanitation
- Practice good hygiene
- Wash hands thoroughly after handling your pets or cleaning them or their cage
- Pregnant women should avoid cleaning of cats and it’s faeces and cages to avoid toxoplasmosis. Toxoplasmosis may cause abortion in pregnant women.
- Do not let it lick your face
- Avoid handling sick animals or animals with lesions unless gloved
- Avoid urine and fecal build-up. Dry feces result in fecal dust which may be inhaled
- Keep pets’ utensils separate
- Keep pets’ out of people’s bed
- Food hygiene should be carefully done in order to eliminate the rate of zoonotic infection
- Raw meat and eggs should not be fed to dogs due to higher rate of infection susceptibility
- Education of children regarding pet handling and hygiene
- Rabies vaccination should be considered for domestic dogs and the dog owners should also be aware of benefits of rabies vaccination before and after dogs bites
- The high risk group should be protected by administration of specific immunization
- Infected pets and areas where they commonly reside should be treated with appropriate insecticides for fleas, ticks, mites and larvae
- Have a veterinarian check over a new pet or unhealthy pet and provide needed medication or immunization.
(The author Arnab Jyoti Kalita is a 3rd Year student of B.V.Sc & A.H at College of Veterinary Science, Guwahati)