No matter how much we love our pets, maintaining proper hygiene is key to a healthy, happy relationship. Zoonosis, diseases including bacteria, viruses and parasites animals can spread to humans, should be a concern to all responsible pet owners.
“There are a lot of different diseases that can be passed from pets to people,” said Dr. Abbie Krause of Family Pet Hospital.
Worms are a big cause for concern, especially with children. Roundworms, hookworms and whipworms all can be transmitted to humans through an infected animal’s fecal matter.
“Kids are a high risk for worms because they don’t always wash their hands after dealing with pets,” said Krause. “And it’s concerning especially with roundworms because they can cause a lot of problems including blindness.”
Fleas and ticks are other zoonotic parasites that are coming back into play with the warmer spring temperatures.
As far as letting pets give kisses on the mouth, Krause isn’t a fan.
“There are a lot of bacteria in their mouths,” she said. “Chances are it’s OK, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Dogs eat gross things and lick their backsides.”
Zoonotic diseases aren’t limited to cats and dogs. Birds, reptiles and small animals can also transmit diseases if proper care isn’t taken.
Reptiles can pass along Salmonella and E. coli, which can be deadly. Small animals commonly have ringworm, which is an extremely itchy and contagious fungus, although it is not dangerous. Birds can have mites and fleas, which will jump on to people and bite.
“Anyone can catch a disease that’s zoonotic, but those who are more susceptible are pregnant, kids, elderly and those who are undergoing chemo,” Krause said.
The best way to combat zoonotic diseases is to stay hygienic when dealing with pets.
“Wash your hands frequently and wash them well,” said Krause. “Anytime you pick up their stool, obviously wash your hands really well.”
Rabies is another deadly disease that is transferred from animals to humans. Approximately 55,000 people die every year worldwide from rabies, mostly in Asia, said Krause.
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), the signs of rabies are aggression, restlessness, lethargy, increased vocalization, loss of appetite, weakness, disorientation, paralysis, seizures and sudden death. If bit by an animal suspected of having rabies, try to catch the animal so it can be tested.
“Call animal control or the police so they can trap it humanely,” said Krause. This is important because rabies is tested in a part of the brain so brain matter must be completely intact and not bashed in.