While some people might have qualms about having close contact with animals, others are all about showing their pets snuggly, huggy-kissy affection. I am one of the latter, always petting, scratching, hugging and yes, even kissing my own pets and the pets I am pet sitting for. I do draw the line at dog mouth to my mouth kissing, but I have seen people who are even OK with that. Whenever a dog tries to “French” kiss me, I turn or lift my head so the tongue hits my cheek or chin instead of my mouth, but really, if there is bacteria on the pooch’s tongue, I am sure that at that level of closeness it is somehow going to end up in my mouth even though I won’t let the dog actually give me the mouth kiss he or she so desires.
The other morning on the news, there was a blurb about leprosy being on the rise in Florida, with three new cases being diagnosed in Volusia County. In each case, the person had been known to have “close contact” with an armadillo. Armadillos are known to be carriers of the disease and can pass it to humans.
While I’m sure most of us won’t be having snuggle time with one soon, it did get me wondering what kinds of diseases can be passed from dog and/or cats to humans, since these are the type of pets most of our customers have.
The term Zoonosis applies to diseases that can be passed from pets to people. This includes any type of bacteria, virus or parasite. All pets have the potential to spread zoonitic diseases. Proper hygiene is the most effective way to prevent the spread of any illness from your pets to people.
I picked up a really helpful brochure from Petsmart awhile back that has a great deal of information about prevention and types of zoonisis. Intestiinal bacterias such as salmonella and E.coli are two common bacteria that can be transferred. Parasites such as various types of worms, fleas, mites and lice are also considered zoonotic diseases, as is ringworm.
Many of these types of bacteria, viruses and parasites are normal inhabitants of a pet’s digestive tract and are harmless in the pet, but may be dangerous to humans. The most common way for humans to contract a zoonotic disease is through contact with the pet’s fecal matter. Common sense and cleanliness can go a long way in preventing the spread by keeping your yard and home free of pet waste and by washing pet bedding, food and water dishes, as well as kennel area and litter boxes regularly.
Getting into the habit of washing your hands after handling any of the pet’s bedding, litter box and other such items is a good idea, as is keeping the pet away from the kitchen, specifically food prep areas. This last part may be difficult, especially with cats who like to counter surf, so frequent counter washing and disinfecting with bleach or other sanitizer is a must.
Making sure your pet is clean and parasite free is another preventative. Talk to your vet about de worming and flea preventatives. If you have issues with fleas, not only will the pet have to be treated, but your home and yard will need treatment as well.
Before freaking out and banning Fido or Muffy to the outside forever and handling them only with gloves on and sanitizer handy, realize that most individuals who are healthy and strong are less likely to contract any type of zoonitic disease, or any disease for that matter. Infants, young children, pregnant women and people with a lowered immune system are the ones who should be more cautious, as they are at a much greater risk. Talk with your doctor and your pet’s veterinarian if you have any questions, and do your research. Knowledge is power, and by knowing how to prevent zoonosis and knowing what to look for if you suspect a contagion is worth a lot.
For further online reading, check out the following links:
Even after finding all of this out, it hasn’t stopped me from being as affectionate as ever with my own pets and any other pet I may come into contact with. I just try to use the common sense I mentioned above and keep myself, and my pets, as healthy as possible. I hope you all feel the same!