A zoonotic disease is any disease that can be transmitted to people from animals. There are many zoonotic diseases in the world, but very few people ever experience them due to good sanitation habits and excellent pet care. There are some people that are more susceptible to zoonotic diseases because they are immunocompromised: pregnant, very young and very old, chronic illnesses or cancer and AIDS/HIV. These individuals must be extra-vigilant when it comes to pet care.
The most effective method of decreasing zoonotic diseases is hand washing. This is especially true for children that are frequently putting their fingers into their mouths. Hand washing is important when cleaning a litterbox or picking up the yard. Removing feces frequently from the yard or litterbox decreases the risk of zoonotic parasites becoming a problem. Avoid raw foods in your pet’s diet and your own diet. Gardening can expose people to zoonotic risks, and gloves are a major deterrent. Avoid walking barefoot in the yard, especially if dogs defecate in the yard. Each pet in your household need to be on a parasite prevention program year-round, which includes 1-2 yearly fecal flotation tests to screen for intestinal parasites.
Some of the common zoonotic items that could be encountered include: round/hookworms, tapeworms, giardia, cryptosporidium, toxoplasmosis, leptospirosis, salmonella and campylobacter. Ringworm fungus and cheyletiella mites can also infect people.
If you are immunocompromised or know someone who is, you may speak with the veterinarian about more details and possibly a prevention plan that should help all people live compatibly with their pets.
To help prevent and control infections follow the guidelines below:
* Follow your veterinarian’s recommended deworming program.
* Have your pet’s stool tested as recommended by your veterinarian and follow any antiparasite treatment that may be advised.
* Treat your pets and their environment to control fleas and ticks.
* Dispose of dog and cat feces every day and comply with pooper-scooper laws.
* Cover children’s sandboxes when not in use.
* Prevent your pets from hunting wildlife.
* Feed only cooked, canned, or dry pet food.
* Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating.
* Wash hands after contact with anything that may have been contaminated with dog and cat feces.
* Do not allow children to go barefoot, sit, or lie in areas where there may be animal feces.
* Do not drink water from streams or other sources that may be contaminated with animal feces.
For more information on parasites, visit: www.petsandparasites.org