At the same time every morning, like clockwork, my dog starts whining from his cage to signal he’s awake and ready to be let out.
Before roaming the house alone, he must be taken outside to relieve himself. Once we step out the door, a realization hits me about the neighboring dogs sharing the same bathroom areas as mine.
After wandering the neighborhood for a bit, we head back inside for me to return to the bed.
Of course, my dogs join me. Another realization hits me concerning the dogs’ paws on the bed I spend so much time in. Just as humans can catch diseases from others, dogs can catch diseases from other dogs.
This in turn made me wonder what sorts of diseases are hiding on those paws that I could catch. Although they are loving animals, our most faithful companions may be hurting us without our knowledge because close living conditions with our pets open the door to sometimes silent diseases.
Zoonosis is “any disease or infection that can be passed from animals to humans” (Protecting Pets). These diseases can be passed virally or by skin to skin contact, but many are most commonly passed when dealing with feces or from the animals’ contaminated paws.
The most common diseases passed from our pets to us are rabies, ringworms, hookworms, roundworms, and pinworms (Protecting Pets).
Rabies is a viral disease that is passed to humans when an infected animal bites them (Walhert). The rabies virus is held within an animal’s saliva. In more rare cases, rabies can be passed when the dog’s saliva comes in contact with open wounds, broken skin or “mucous membranes” such as the mouth or inner eyelids.
Symptoms of rabies can appear within a few days up to a year after the bite. The most common and distinctive signs of rabies after a bite include a tingling or twitching sensation around the bite area followed by “a fever, headache, muscle aches, loss of appetite, nausea, and fatigue” (Rabies).
With this being said, rabies begins by affecting the muscles of the bite area, moving up the nearby nerves to the brain which causes more horrendous or newer signs and ultimately death when left untreated. Luckily, there is a vaccine for this disease and treatments that can be given to those who have been bitten by infected animals (Rabies).
Hookworms are another common disease passed to humans from pets. These enter through the skin causing “red snakelike bumps on the skin” along with inflammation and stomach pains as well as infecting the large and small intestines (Protecting Pets). While they home in the intestines, our dogs release these buggers into our yards when they relieve themselves.
Luckily for us, the worms can’t survive in muck or clay and “almost immediately die under direct sunlight”. After entering through the skin, the worms migrate to the lungs, and then come up from the trachea to be swallowed, and make their new home in our intestines. Normally, they survive anywhere from 1-5 years, but some have lived in the host up to 15 years! (Hookworms).
Roundworms are passed to humans through ingestion of the eggs. These pests are found in a pet’s feces and “can last years in their environment” in your own backyard. These worms can affect the liver, lungs, eyes, heart and brain (Protecting Pets). These worms are anywhere from 2-5 inches in length and can be passed whole or in egg form by our pets. Pets then pick up the eggs with their paws and bring them wherever they go. With all the different organs affected by roundworms, there are multiple subtypes of worms in the roundworm family, each causing different symptoms.
Treatment of the different types of worms takes corresponding prescription drugs while the main intestinal type must be flushed from the intestines. Once this is done, pets can start on the preventative medications (Roundworms).
Ringworms are another skin disease which, on humans, results in a red “ring-like” rash passed from dogs by skin to skin contact (Bennitt). Despite the name, ringworm is actually a fungus (Walhert).
Ringworms cause signs such as balding and skin lesions on pets, but this disease can even go without signs or symptoms. Ringworms are ultimately treated with medicated shampoos and ointments. In some more serious cases, oral medications or medicated baths called “dips” may be called for. This fungus can live for months at a time in their environments (Ringworm).
Pinworms are spread through ingesting the eggs much like roundworms. These worms affect the colon, small intestine, and ultimately the anal area where eggs are laid.
Some symptoms include intense itching in the anal area, inflammation in the anal area due to the scratching, and more uncommonly loss of appetite and weight loss (Pinworms).
Surprisingly enough, “forty percent” of America’s immune deficient people have an animal companion which means these people are more susceptible to catch Zoonotic diseases (Protecting Pets).
It’s important to have regular vet checkups for pets in order to catch and treat any diseases they may have. If a pet harbors a disease, medicines can be given to get rid of many common diseases. If a pet has yet to catch a disease, preventative medications and vaccines can protect not only the pet, but the owner as well. It’s also very important to keep pet play and bathroom areas clean of possibly contaminated feces. Many of these diseases can be avoided with proper hygiene such as periodically washing hands, especially before eating or after feces clean up (Walhert).
Testing options are available to pets and humans. Pets are most commonly tested by blood, skin, or feces samples (Walhert). Testing options such as those “takes only a few minutes and can save lives and costs in the long run” (Understanding).
Humans can be tested through those same methods as well as a “Scotch tape test” and through x-rays. The “Scotch tape test” is used to diagnose pinworms by putting a piece of tape over the anus and reviewing results under a microscope. “X-rays with barium to diagnose more serious problems” are another alternative to testing, but is less commonly used (Ehrlich).
The future of these testing options, medications, and vaccines is looking bright with newer methods, better medications, and newer vaccines. The advances in technology will bring about new ways in dealing with these diseases and possibly a decline in seeing such illnesses (Walhert).
The spreading of these diseases is caused by carelessness and laziness. If someone can’t take the time and effort or doesn’t have the money to get the care a pet needs, that person shouldn’t have the animal. With vaccines, medications, and easy testing options to verify possible diseases, there should be no reason to let these problems get out of hand. No animal should have to suffer with these horrible illnesses and no human should have to be treated from them.
Technological advances will have an incredible impact on controlling Zoonotic diseases. Knowing about Zoonotic diseases in respect to symptoms causes, testing, and treatment can help responsible pet owners keep themselves and their pets healthy. With the correct precautionary steps, diseases from a person’s loving pet can be avoided.