Can Your Pet Get You Sick? Expert Warns Against Zoonosis


BREA, Calif. -- When most people think about protecting themselves from disease, they usually think about avoiding contact with sick friends, taking vitamin C and washing their hands more frequently. Most don't realize that a potential culprit could be lying next to them on the couch.


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each year thousands of people contract various forms of diseases from zoonotic conditions -- diseases that

can be acquired by humans from household dogs, cats or other domestic or wild



"Lyme disease, hookworm or roundworm infections (more common in children),

and toxoplasmosis (highest risk to pregnant women) are a few examples of

harmful conditions that can be passed from pet to person," explains Dr. Peter

Weinstein, medical director for Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI).  "Since the transmitter of these illnesses is normally an infected pet or flea or tick carrying the condition

from an animal to a human, the key is to detect, treat, or better yet prevent

zoonotic diseases and conditions with proper veterinary care."  Weinstein

elaborates on preventative tactics associated with the more prevalent and

harmful zoonotic ailments:




Prevalent in puppies and kittens, hookworms and roundworms are parasites

that live and grow inside the intestines of both dogs and cats.  Infected pets

pass hookworm or roundworm eggs or larvae in their feces, which humans

(usually children) may have direct contact with and subsequently become

infected.  Roundworms in humans are normally a result of ingesting animal

feces, while hookworms are contracted through skin penetration.  Weinstein

warns that in some extreme cases roundworm larvae may cause damage to tissue,

affect the nervous system, or perhaps lodge in the eye and lead to blindness.

Hookworm larvae migrate within human skin, causing localized irritation and



"The most effective way to lessen the risk of getting a zoonotic infection

is to prevent it in your pet," explains Weinstein.  "Have your puppy or kitten

dewormed at a very early age and throughout puppy/kittenhood, since they can

contract worms from their mother before birth.  Annual fecal exams and

preventive dewormings for canines and felines are integral to monitoring the

presence or preventing the reappearance of these intestinal parasites."  Also, recognizing and avoiding possible contaminated soil and plants and keeping play areas and lawns free of animal feces helps avoid human contraction of roundworms and hookworms.




Lyme disease is a bacterial disease that manifests in mice and deer, and

is transmitted to dogs and cats by ticks that have bitten infected carriers.

The same ticks that infect a pet canine can transmit Lyme disease to the pet

owner(s), potentially causing them to experience flu-like symptoms, including

fever, headache, and muscle or joint pain.  The infliction is most commonly

affiliated with joint aching and discomfort that can contribute to or

aggravate arthritis. Antibiotic treatment is usually administered for both

dogs and humans.


Weinstein lists tick avoidance and control for pets as a pivotal role in

preventing Lyme disease.  "Prevention for Lyme disease is two fold; pet owners

should invest in prescription flea/tick control, as well as vaccinate those

dogs in high-risk areas for Lyme disease."


"The zoonoses that we commonly see surface in humans are conveniently

preventable by practicing diligence when it comes to well care for our pets,"

adds Weinstein.  "More harmful conditions that are challenging to prevent,

like Plague and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, are rarer to see in humans, but

pet owners are prone to nonetheless if their pets aren't treated for it. Being prepared with both a base medical plan and routine coverage for your dog, cat or bird helps pet owners reduce the risk of zoonoses."


Source: Veterinary Pet Insurance

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