Few days ago I met a pet veterinarian from Scotland who was advising me on how to avoid pet diseases.In his own words, pets can host a number of organisms that cause parasitic, bacterial, fungal and viral diseases in humans. As a pet keeper,I always want to learn something new to avoid being in trouble due to lack of information.Pets to human diseases are known as zoonoses.Bites and scratches from pets can lead to several diseases like pasterurellosis and cat-scratch disease, while psittacosis or parrot fever is contracted when humans breathe in aerosolised droplets containing secretions from infected birds.According to the experienced vet, the most common zoonotic diseases comes from parasites and bacteria that are transmitted through the gastrointestinal route by touching the pet or litter tray and then your mouth.He told me the risk of catching these diseases can usually be mitigated by washing hands.Toxocariasis is a zoonosis caused by the parasitic roundworms commonly found in the intestine of dogs and cats. Toxocara is one of the most common zoonotic infections in children worldwide.Of most concern to humans is Toxocara canis, which puppies can contract from the mother before birth or from her milk. Toxocara larvae mature rapidly in the puppy’s intestine. When the puppy is a few weeks old, they begin to mass-produce large numbers of eggs. In his own explanation, the eggs then contaminate the environment through the animal’s faeces.Children become infected by ingesting soil contaminated with animal faeces that contains parasite eggs in playgrounds.Most human infection is asymptomatic, in part because the toxocara larvae cannot complete their life cycle in humans. However the parasite can migrate to the liver, lungs and eyes, where it can cause damage.I also learnt that toxoplasmosis is one of the most common gastrointestinal zoonoses. Contamination can occur if you haven’t washed your hands after being in contact with plants or soil in the garden, a cat, cat faeces, or the cat litter box.Toxoplasmosis is caused by the single celled parasitic organism Toxoplasma gondii. The parasite undergoes sexual reproduction in cats and is excreted in faeces as a thick walled structure known as an oocyst. Oocysts passed in a cat’s faeces are not immediately infectious to other animals.
The vet added that they must first undergo a process called sporulation, which can take one to five days depending on environmental conditions.However, cats aren’t only to blame because adults most commonly acquire toxoplasmosis by eating raw meat infected with oocysts. Toxoplasmosis in adults is usually asymptomatic. But people with suppressed immune systems mainly the elderly, those on immunosuppressive drugs and people with AIDS are most at risk of flu like illness from infection.If pregnant women are infected during the first trimester, it can cause serious congenital infection, so it’s important to avoid cat litter altogether.Hydatid disease is caused by small tapeworms that live in the intestine of dogs, dingoes and foxes. This worm spreads from dog to dog, exclusively through an intermediate host which are usually sheep or horses.When sheep eat the worm eggs from pasture contaminated with dog faeces, these eggs will hatch inside them and form what is known as hydatid cysts. These cysts are usually in the offal and when a dog then eats them, the life cycle is complete.In dogs, the hydatid cysts burst and tapeworms mature in the gut. There can be thousands of mature tapeworms inhabiting the gut of infected dogs. Each worm can shed eggs which are passed from the body in faeces.People usually become infected by accidentally swallowing the tapeworm eggs passed in dog faeces. A human acts as an intermediate host in the same way as a sheep or horse.Hydatid disease in humans occurs when large cysts invade various organs, particularly the liver. Symptoms include abdominal pain and chest pain. In some cases, it can affect the brain, bones and heart.The most common bacterial infections transmitted from pets are campylobacter and salmonella.Many animals are carriers of campylobacter. Transmission between pets and humans is gastrointestinal.Salmonella naturally occurs in the gastrointestinal tract of reptiles and amphibians but they are asymptomatic carriers.Studies have found that as many as 94% of all reptiles and amphibians carry salmonella.