Pets can give you diseases. Surprised? Read on to find out how. Most people love having pets, and why shouldn't they? Pets are non-judgmental and their love is unqualified. Several studies have shown that having pets is associated with physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. They are also great companions for children. But remember, these loving creatures can also be a source of distress. Pets can carry different types of disease-causing bacteria and parasites, and these can be transmitted to humans. These diseases, which can be transmitted from animals to humans are known as zoonotic illnesses. Pet diseases are diseases caused by animals to humans.
Ringworm is a contagious disease caused due to a fungus. Pets are susceptible to this and since the spores can survive for months without a host, humans and especially children in contact with pets have a high chance of getting infected with this fungus. It appears as red, hairless circular patches and is itchy. Fortunately, it is not a serious condition and can be treated with prompt and correct treatment in consultation with a dermatologist.
Cat Scratch Disease
As the name suggests, a person can be infected when bitten or scratched by a cat that is infected with the bacteria Bartonella henselae. Symptoms are usually seen 1-2 weeks after exposure and include swelling of the lymph nodes adjacent to the scratched area, decrease in appetite and fatigue. Unlike ringworm, this infection is not passed from humans to humans.
A viral disease, rabies is caused when an infected animal bites or scratches a person. When your pet bites you, the saliva of the infected animal (commonly, dogs), that is infected with rabies virus can infect you and anyone coming in contact with the saliva. Rabies can be transmitted if the infected saliva comes in contact with eyes, mouth, or nose. Lately, there has been a reduction in rabies virus due to widespread immunization of the animals, but the disease is still not completely eradicated. A person who is exposed to animals routinely (wildlife enthusiast or veterinarian) should also be vaccinated. Treatment can be successful if administered within 10 days of infection and before symptoms appear.
These are internal parasites, commonly seen in cats from eating rodents infected with the larvae. The kittens usually get it through the mother's milk. Human beings, especially children develop this infection by direct touch, mostly while playing with an infected pet. Treatment should be initiated as soon as possible, because if left untreated, roundworm can also lead to blindness in humans.
The bacterium Campylobacter jejuni resides in the intestinal tract of animals such as dogs cats. and other mammals. The bacterium is shed in their faeces and humans can contract this disease because of contamination of water or unhygienic practices. Symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, or fever.
Hookworms are the most common nematodes infecting dogs and cats. When humans ingest any food item that is contaminated with the worm eggs from a pet's stools, the eggs hatch in the intestines and then spread in the body. The worms can also burrow through the skin. Symptoms include itchy rash, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, and sometimes, cough and wheezing.
Although cute and cuddly, a cat can serve as a source of parasitic infections like toxoplasmosis. Infection commonly occurs from exposure to cat's faeces. It can also occur by eating undercooked, contaminated meat. Toxoplasmosis usually does not show symptoms in the initial phase. Later on, symptoms like swollen glands, fatigue, fever, muscle pain and soreness may be seen. It can also lead to complications in people with a poor immune system that cannot fight infections easily.
Many people love having beautiful, colourful birds such as parrots and lovebirds as pets. However, they are rarely aware of the zoonotic diseases that can be transmitted by these gorgeous birds. Psittacosis, also known as parrot fever, can be contracted from infected parrots, macaws, hens, and even pigeons. The common symptoms of psittacosis are headache, fever, joint pains, and coughing. Treatment is by antibiotics.
It is a rodent-borne, viral disease mainly caused by house mice. Humans contract the Choriomeningitis virus from house pet rodents that are host to the virus. Like most of the other animal-borne diseases, this disease is also transmitted due to unhygienic conditions. The symptoms are typical of a viral infection and include cold, fatigue, fever and cough. It has been noted that infection of this virus in pregnancy can lead to abnormalities in the new-born, such as hydrocephalus, chorioretinitis and mental retardation.
Salmonella is a group of bacteria known to invade the digestive tract. It can cause diseases in animals as well as in humans. The disease usually presents with abdominal cramps and diarrhea. It can spread from animals like rats, reptiles or mice. Children and humans with poor immunity can be affected very severely, leading to dehydration, meningitis or septicemia. Typhoid fever is caused due to infection from one of the many types of salmonella bacteria.
Tuberculosis is a disease caused by bacteria named Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Surprisingly, dogs and cats are mostly resistant to this strain. But, animals like cows, sheep, deer and monkeys can have this bacteria. Earlier, a major source of tuberculosis was the bovine strain from unpasteurized milk. However, due to the widespread practice of pasteurization, it is now rare. Tuberculosis can also be transmitted from humans to humans. Common symptoms are fever, weight loss, chronic cough, and hemoptysis (coughing up of blood).
Leptospirosis can be transmitted from animals to humans. Rats and swine are mainly responsible for spreading the disease. A generalized infection is usually seen in the mammals and kidneys are commonly affected. The infected urine contaminates water and leads to spread of disease. Headache, vomiting, fever, muscle pain are the common symptoms but, leptospirosis may also lead to hepatitis or meningitis.
These are commonly seen in animals like cows, pigs, fishes, dogs and cats. Humans contract this disease by direct touch or consumption of contaminated meat. Children are commonly infected while playing with pets. The most common symptoms include itching in the anal region and passing of rice-like pieces in the stools. Echinococcus granulosa, a type of tapeworm, can lead to major damage to human body organs and brain. Deworming is the prescribed treatment for this infestation.
Giardiasis is caused more commonly by dogs than cats. It is a water-borne infection. Giardia is a small protozoan that infests the intestines of mammals. Children are commonly affected. Diarrhea is the commonest symptom of this infection and lasts for one or two weeks. Many times, the disease may become chronic and last for more than four years.
Staphylococcal or streptococcal infections
Eye infections in pets are related to streptococcus bacteria, whereas most of the skin diseases are due to staphylococcal infections. These bacterial diseases from pets can be transmitted to human beings through contaminated hands or objects. These bacterial infections are mainly limited to skin and eye symptoms.
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