We derive joy and solace from our pets. They are our non-judgmental companions that give unqualified love. However, on occasion, sick pets can give us germs and parasites that can make us ill. The diseases we can contact from our pets are called Zoonotic diseases. While I do not want you to read this article and become fearful of owning a pet, it’s also good to know that a diseased animal can transfer infections. The following is a list of some of the diseases pets and livestock pass on to human beings. SEE MORE AFTER CUT>>>
Hookworms & roundworms: These are common nematodes of dogs and cats. Dogs get infected with hookworms variously during pregnancy through the placenta, by ingesting larvae in mother’s milk after birth, or through contaminated soil by direct penetration of the skin (usually through the pads of their feet).
Pet owners can get infected with hookworms if they come in contact with, or step on the faeces of an infected dog. To prevent infection, strict hand-washing precautions are necessary. Your pets also need to observe the routine deworming programme provided by a veterinary doctor.
Toxoplasmosis is caused by Toxoplasma gondii, a small single-celled protozoan. The complete life-cycle of toxoplasmosis occurs only in cats. Cats become infected by preying on infected birds and rodents. This disease is most dangerous if a woman becomes newly infected during the third trimester of pregnancy, as it may cause severe foetal abnormalities. In severe cases, it may result in abortion. This is why obstetricians advise pregnant women not to change cat litter boxes. To prevent you or your cat from getting infected with toxoplasmosis, wash your hands after scooping the litter box and don’t let your cat outside to hunt.
Rabies is acute encephalitis (an illness that affects the central nervous system). Any species of warm-blooded animal is susceptible to this disease, but the most common carriers are bats, foxes, raccoons, skunks, cats and dogs. In an infected animal, the virus resides in the salivary glands and is usually transmitted when contaminated saliva comes in contact with an open wound or via a saliva-contaminated bite. Early signs of rabies in animals may include excessive salivation, sudden increase in aggression, and paralysis. In humans, clinical signs include fever, cough, sore throat, headache and sometimes, itching or pain at the site of bite. This is followed by restlessness, hallucinations and seizures. The final stage is coma and death.
If you believe you may have been exposed to a rabid animal, seek immediate medical attention. Doctors may start a series of post-exposure shots to protect you from the virus. Left untreated, rabies is almost always fatal. Call the veterinary doctor immediately you believe your pet was exposed.
If already vaccinated, the vet may administer a booster shot. If unvaccinated, he may suggest euthanasia; but you could also quarantine your pet to see if symptoms develop. Tell your doctor if you’re bitten or scratched by an unknown or unvaccinated dog, cat, or wild animal.
This is a chronic infection of the lungs and lymph nodes of many species of animals. Dogs and cats are quite resistant to this disease, but cattle, deer, monkeys and humans are quite susceptible. The organism responsible for tuberculosis is Mycobacterium tuberculosis and humans can contact it by drinking up pasteurised milk (locally referred to as Fura-de-nunu) or eating infected beef of an infected bull or cow.
Psittacosis is also known as parrot fever. It is caused by small intracellular bacteria known as Chlamydia psittaci. These bacterium live within the respiratory system of an infected bird. Transmission is through inhalation of dust, dander and nasal secretions of infected birds, especially parrots and turkeys.
In infected humans, symptoms may include headache, cough, fever and dyspnoea (difficulty in breathing). Severe cases can be life-threatening.
Caused by Bacillus anthracis, anthrax is primarily a disease of cloven-footed animals, which is often fatal to animals and man. This bacterium produces spores or “seeds” that remain infectious for years in the soil under the right conditions.
It kills cattle very rapidly — the first sign of the presence of the disease being death. It is sometimes confused with lightening strike or snake bite. Prior to death, the cows are weak and have difficulty breathing. Their blood may refuse to clot. In humans, the lung or pulmonic form of the disease is the most fatal. It is spread through contact with the carcasses of infected animals.
There are several species of Leptospira that can be transfered from animals to man. Leptospiral organisms are localised in the kidneys and are usually in the urine of affected animals. It is passed through contaminated water. In people, signs of leptospirosis include headache, vomiting, muscle pain and, occasionally, hepatitis, meningitis and kidney failure.
By: Dr Olufemi Oboye