Pets and Your Health: Zoonotic Diseases

It's no secret our pets are part of our family. While we all share special bonds with our fur babies, it is important to remember that there are also nasty diseases we can share too. Unfortunately there are a number of parasitic, bacterial and fungal infections that we can contract from our pets - and vice versa! These conditions are known as zoonotic diseases. They can be passed to humans through contact with bodily products (saliva, faeces, urine), through bites or scratches or in some cases as little as skin to skin contact (patting).

Examples of zoonotic diseases include:

  • ringworm
  • salmonellosis
  • leptospirosis
  • campylobacter
  • giardia
  • round worms
  • hookworms
  • tapeworms
  • scabies

Thankfully, in most cases, severity and risk can be reduced or eliminated by following simple hygiene procedures and ensuring up to date preventative health treatment of family pets. Some basic guidelines to avoiding zoonotic diseases include:

  • Always wash hands well with warm soapy water or use hand sanitiser after handling pets
  • Educate children on hygiene around pets - young children should be supervised
  • Avoid any preparing, handling or eating of food without washing hands well or around pets
  • Ensure preventative health treatment of family pets is kept up to date (even if signs aren't visible)
  • Ensure waste products are removed regularly from houses and yards & appropriate disinfectant is used to clean up after pets
  • Bite & scratch wounds should be washed immediately & medical advice sought
  • Pregnant & immune compromised people should avoid handling animal waste

The benefits of the special relationships we share with our pets far outweigh the risk of zoonotic disease, yet we should be aware especially when introducing children to the wonderful world of pet ownership. If you are concerned or would just like more information then ask your veterinarian next time you’re in.