A new study has warned dog owners that they may just be passing on germs to their beloved pets if they don't wash their hands more often. Hand (un)cleanliness contributes more to owner-pet germ transmission than sleeping by pets or getting licks on the face.
According to Dr. Kate Stenske, a clinical assistant professor at K-State's College of Veterinary Medicine, the human-animal bonding behaviours like sleeping with the dog or getting licked at face aren't more likely to spread germs.
However, it did show an association between antibiotic-resistant E. coli and owners who didn't wash their hands after petting their dogs or before cooking meals.
"We know diseases can be shared between dogs and people," Stenske said.
"About 75 percent of emerging diseases are zoonotic, meaning they are transferrable between humans and other animals. With these two pieces of knowledge, I wanted to examine the public health aspects of such activities," she added.
For the study, the researchers used E. coli bacteria, which is common in the gastrointestinal tracts of both dogs and humans.
"People have it, dogs have it, and it normally doesn't cause any problems. But it can acquire genes to make it antibiotic resistant," she said.
They examined faecal samples from dogs and their owners and looked at the bacteria's DNA fingerprints.
She found that 10 percent of dog-human pairs shared the same E. coli strains.
She also found that the E. coli had more resistance to common antibiotics than expected, although the owners had more multiple-drug resistant strains than their pets.
"This make us think that dogs are not likely to spread multiple drug-resistant E. coli to their owners, but perhaps owners may spread them to their dogs," Stenske said.
"What we learn from this is that antibiotics really do affect the bacteria within our gastrointestinal tract, and we should only take them when we really need to - and always finish the entire prescription as directed," the researcher added.