Here’s why the health of pets can have an impact on the health of human beings.
Pets have a prominent place in our lives. They provide us with much-needed companionship and unconditional love. But how much do we take care of our furry friends? Do we know enough about what might be bothering them? Is there more to the irritable behaviour than what meets the eye? Well, the answer is yes. Pets can suffer from a variety of infectious diseases and some of these can also be transferred to the pet parents. But fret not. With awareness, proper diagnosis and timely precautions, you can easily save yourselves and your pets from these communicable diseases.
Zoonotic diseases, infections that are caused in humans due to transmission from animals, are an all-time concern for pet lovers. The perennial zoonotic diseases include Rabies, Scabies, Gastroenteritis, Leptospirosis, Tapeworms and various other fungal diseases. However, not many are aware of the risk factors or prevention measures.
Rabies has been the most dreaded zoonotic disease as it accounts for around 20,000 human deaths in India each year, with a large portion of fatalities due to lack of awareness about the treatment.
As per the reports by the World Health Organisation, dogs contribute up to 99 per cent of all Rabies transmissions to humans, followed by other stray animals including cats, monkeys and even cows.
Many people neglect the need to vaccinate dogs, ignoring the fact that scratches, bites or an infected animal licking an open cut can also result in Rabies. But better awareness among pet owners has drastically reduced the incidence of this disease, due to proper vaccinations. Scabies, a common skin disease caused by mites, can be easily prevented if pets are diagnosed and treated on time, and is often easy to manage.
Though rodents are the major source of Leptospirosis infection, pets, when infected, can cause the disease in humans if they come in contact with the urine of infected animals. Similarly, Toxoplasmosis, which is clinical disease, is caused when pregnant women come in contact with the stools of infected cats.
Hookworm larva may cause health issues due to the erratic migration of infective larvae into humans. Tapeworms like Echinococcus species can cause cysts in humans who act as accidental intermediate hosts.
Dr M.G. Mohamed Ali, veterinary surgeon at Pasteur Pets Clinic, Chennai says if the pet shows aggression when you try to adopt or rescue it, please stop and request professional help. Don’t get bitten by animals with no medical or vaccination history. “Make sure you spend enough time with the animal before adopting it. Don’t adopt pets just based on an impulse,” advises the vet.
Early diagnosis and treatment are emphasised for many other zoonotic diseases such as Hookworms, Leptospirosis, Dermatophytosis and fungal infections.“Dermatophytosis and fungal infections are more prevalent in cats, while it is contagious to humans and dogs. Early diagnosis and treatment make complete recovery possible,” adds Dr Mohamed.
“Most of the time, when pets are taken for immunisation, veterinarians normally discuss such health concerns with pet owners. Especially, if a pet is suspected of having contracted a communicable disease, then the owner is definitely informed about its zoonotic potential,” said Dr Mohamed Ali.
Vets emphasise on pet hygiene. According to them, basic hygiene, proper vaccination and management of parasites (both external and internal) are sufficient to keep humans safe. Various vaccines including intra-nasal vaccinations are available for the protection of pets against Kennel Cough or Infectious Tracheobronchitis. Intranasal vaccination is also available for protection against Parvovirus.