Zoonotic Diseases caused by your Pet’s Worms
By Keith Perrett
A zoonotic disease, loosely defined, is a disease that can be transmitted from an animal to a human. These diseases can be transmitted by direct contact, by vectors or by the consumption of animals and/or animal products.
While many animal diseases are zoonotic, we are going to highlight some of the more common ones caused by worms.
A) Hookworm (Ancylostoma caninum)
These are distributed worldwide and are found wherever dogs live.
In dogs they can cause anaemia(bloodloss), weight loss, loss of appetite, poor growth,bloody stools, coughing and localised skin inflammation, especially of the feet, legs and abdomen.
In humans they are responsible for a condition known as Cutaneous Larval Migrans. The migration of the larval stages causes localised skin inflammation, especially in the lower leg region
Preventative measures include:
1) Regular removal of dog faeces from the environment and avoiding contact with dog faeces and soil contaminated with dog faeces.
2) Disinfection of Kennels etc
3) Regular Deworming (pets and people!)
4) Basic Hygiene – washing hands after playing with dogs, before meals etc.
B) Roundworm (Toxocara canis) are also distributed worldwide.
Usually only dogs up to about 8 months old are infected. Symptoms include poor growth, weight loss, pot bellied appearance, coughing, occasional vomiting, slimey diarrhoea with worms sometimes visible.
In humans they are responsible for a condition known as Visceral larval Migrans. The larvae migrate through the body and the symptoms experienced by the person depend on where the larvae end up in the body.Common symptoms include a fever, muscle pains, coughing, loss of appetite, blindness (usually only one eye) etc.
Prevention is the same as for hookworm.
Toxoplasmosis is one of the best known of the zoonotic diseases that involve pets and is the disease that leads many pregnant women to (unfairly) toss the pet cat out the door!
Although cats play a major role in the life cycle of Toxopllasma gondii, the causative organism, humans can in fact become infected 3 different ways, only one of which is direct contact with cat faeces.In fact, cat ownership is not a big factor for human infection with Toxoplasma.
The three ways that humans can become infected:
1) Eating undercooked meat
This is THE major route of infection for humans, NOT contact with cat faeces. In one study , up to 60% of infections were as the result of the consumption of undercooked meat.
2) Transplacental Infection
The foetus is infected while still in the uterus. This infection is the result of the mother becoming infected during pregnancy.
3) Ingestion of the organism shed in cat faeces.
Preventative measures thus involve cooking meat properly, wearing gloves when gardening, washing hands and utensils after working with raw meat and cleaning litter trays out daily.
Zoonotic diseases are a real threat to humans, but in most cases a little common sense and basic hygiene practices will prevent you becoming infected with any of these diseases.
Keith Perrett is a qualified Veterinarian http://www.pet-health-for-humans.com
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