Zoonosis refers to a disease that can be transmitted between species, such as from animals to humans. Obviously sharing germs by sneezing, kissing and close contact with a sick person is a recipe for illness, but did you know you can catch diseases from your pets too? Here are the top five creepy crawlies you can catch from Fluffy or Fido!
- Scabies is a mite that causes intense itching and a bumpy rash. Dogs can actually catch this disease from their owners too! Usually dogs present intensely itchy, often around their face and ears. Transmission is skin to skin, and the mites don’t live long off the body.
- Ringworm is actually not a worm at all, it’s a fungus that infects the skin, causing an itchy scaly rash. People will often get classic target shaped lesions, but cats and dogs don’t always present this way. Transmission can be skin to skin contact, but also can be contracted from the environment, for example, cat or dog beds. Treatment tends to be prolonged, sometimes weeks to months.
- Worms. Intestinal parasites tend to prefer the species they are designed to infect, but it is possible to have transmission between pets and people. Since a person is a ‘foreign’ host, the worms that typically live in the intestinal tract in animals can migrate elsewhere in the body people. For example, roundworms have been known to infect eyes in people, and hookworms in the skin. Transmission is usually fecal-oral. It’s extremely easy to prevent infection by keeping pets dewormed, and keeping the litter box and yard clean and free of feces.
- Toxoplasmosis. Toxoplasmosis is a parasite that we hear the most about in regards to pregnant women being cautioned to avoid cat litter boxes. The parasite can severely damage the unborn baby, causing blindness, neurologic disease and even miscarriage. Most healthy people exposed can fight off the illness on their own. Prevention is easily achieved by cleaning cat litter boxes daily, cooking meat thoroughly and washing hands.
- Salmonella and campylobacter bacteria are common causes for diarrhea in people and in pets. Dogs can easily ‘catch’ this from their owners (keep that toilet lid down!) and they can transmit it to you too! Inoculation is fecal-oral and prevention of spread is through good personal hygiene and cleanliness.
The bottom line is that by insuring your pet is kept clean, healthy and up to date on vaccines and parasite preventatives, as well as exercising good common sense and hygiene, we can happily co-exist with our furred friends.