Can your dog pass on any diseases to you?

April 13, 2012

Dogs are one of the most loved animals. Cuddling, hugging and kissing these furry friends are done things. Dogs are very affectionate pets. The care and the loving bestowed by the pet parent will be reciprocated tenfold by the dog. Unfortunately, when we come in contact with the dog, we humans, stand the risk of getting some diseases from the pet. Dogs can pass on virus and bacteria to their human families.

External parasites are common in dogs. To ensure the well being of the pet, responsible owners would make sure that it is not infested with ticks, fleas and mites. These external parasites can make the life of a dog extremely uncomfortable. Moreover, an infestation can spread not only to other pets but to humans as well. Imagine if both you and the dog will be ferociously scratching.

A greater risk of having a dog infested with external parasites is Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. These diseases can be transmitted to humans by an infected tick. These tick borne diseases have become endemic in large areas. Lyme disease is caused by a bacterium that is transmitted by one of the dog’s parasites, the tick. A tick will feed after it has attached to a human. Symptoms of the disease will typically appear within days. Fever, fatigue, headache, stiff and aching muscles and joints will be felt by the affected person. A bull’s eye rash is one of the most common manifestations of the disease. Antibiotic treatments are necessary. Left undiagnosed and untreated, the disease can spread to the nervous system and to the heart causing serious chronic medical concerns. Rocky Mountain spotted fever is another tick borne disease that can be transmitted by the dog to humans. Along with the fever and the headache, infected person will develop a rash. This potentially fatal disease needs immediate treatment.

Dogs can also transmit worms to humans. A flea is a vector of tapeworms. Although not a common occurrence, people may ingest a tapeworm egg-carrying flea. The infestation will begin when the eggs hatch in the stomach and intestine of humans. Roundworm is a common intestinal parasite of dogs. Puppies contract roundworms for their mother. This type of worm can be transmitted to humans through the dog’s feces. Children are more vulnerable as apart from a weaker immune system, children have the tendency to play with dirt and soil. Kids that touch and play with the dogs or touch contaminated surfaces would put their hands in their mouth. Roundworm infestation can be mild so as not to show symptoms. However, this parasitic disease has the potential of progressing into a serious illness if the worm migrates and damages the liver, the eyes or the brain.

Rabies no longer common in US and in Great Britain. Effective vaccinations and animal control programs have reduced the number of reported incidents greatly compared to the early 1900s. Rabies though is still common in most third world countries. This viral disease is transmitted to humans through other forms of contact but the contaminated saliva is commonly transmitted through a dog bite. Treatment must be administered before symptoms are manifested as when severe symptoms were shown, the disease becomes untreatable. After the virus has invaded the central nervous system, it would cause inflammation of the brain (acute encephalitis). Infected person will be paralyzed up to the point where swallowing becomes difficult. Hydrophobia will be manifested when water or any kind of liquid is presented. The infected person will die in two to ten days after severe symptoms are shown.

Sanitation and good hygiene is of paramount importance to prevent the occurrence of these zoonotic diseases. Fungal infections can be irritating but other diseases transmitted by the pet can be life threatening. Pet parents have to have a working knowledge on how transmission of these diseases can be prevented.

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