A pet, in my opinion, is the perfect poster child of unconditional love. I remember falling flat on my backside and it was Biscuit, our late golden retriever, who first witnessed the incident and who rushed to my side to check if her ”hooman“ was still in one piece. As a resuscitative measure, she immediately gave me her version of CPR, bathed my face with her saliva, and supplied me with an overdose of her doggy breath.
While I was the grateful recipient of so much love, I could not help but think if we are aware of what diseases they can transmit?
Zoonosis. This is a term used to mean that humans may get infected by diseases coming from animals. While studies have shown the infinite health benefits of having pets, one needs to be made aware that they can also be sources of infection. For this piece, I chose to limit my discussion to man’s best friend.
Dogs are capable of transmitting bacterial, viral, and parasitic diseases through several routes: via infected saliva, urine, or feces, through aerosolized droplets from the infected body fluid, from direct contact, or from playing host to insects capable of transmitting infection through bites.
Allow me to give a few examples from a festival of possibilities. Amongst the viral diseases, rabies. For bacterial infections, you may be familiar with salmonella, pasteurella, leptospira, Staphylococcus aureus, and campylobacter. For parasitic diseases, Giardia lamblia, Toxocara canis, and Ancylostoma caninum.
Rabies. On several occasions, this has taken space in the column. I cannot overemphasize that it is fatal but vaccine-preventable. As a responsible pet owner, have your dog vaccinated. Take time to obtain your pre-exposure prophylaxis. This is not only a lifesaving cost-effective initiative, but a more attractive option, given that the number of injections is less in the event of any inadvertent scratch, bite, or lick of any mucosal body surface.
Leptospirosis. The end-of-the-year report from the epidemiology bureau of the Department of Health showed a remarkable increase in human cases from 2,077 in 2021 to 4,741. Though it is common knowledge that leptospirosis is predominantly obtained from contact with the urine of infected rats, dogs may likewise be affected. As with rabies, have your dog vaccinated.
Illness in most instances may be mild and self-limiting, but can also have serious complications that can lead to multiorgan failure.
Brain abscess. The isolated organism was Capnocytophaga. The patient had an underlying heart condition and had undergone a neurosurgical procedure. Having met this agent for the first time, a quick literature review revealed that it is part of the normal oral flora of dogs and cats. Bingo! Further probing revealed that he and his dog were inseparable.
Gastroenteritis. Salmonella, Giardia, and campylobacter infections all may manifest as diarrhea and may have immediate and attendant complications, especially for the young and the immunocompromised.
COVID-19. As of this writing, dogs have not been documented to spread the virus to humans. It’s the other way around. Reports of animals transmitting the virus to people are rare and occurred after they were exposed and in close contact with persons who had COVID-19. As a favor, please do not take your dog to keep you company while you are sick with the virus.
So what can we do to prevent and promote the spread of these infections?
Wash your hands. Use soap and water after having touched, fed, played with, cleaned up, and handled pet food, equipment, and before preparing any food or drink. If at all possible, clean your pet supplies outside the home. Dispose of doggie poop properly.
Pay a regular visit to your veterinarian for needed vaccinations, flea control, and seek adequate advice to keep them healthy. Supervise young children when they interact with their pets. Avoid kissing and ensure that strict hand hygiene is observed. When outside the home, advise children against petting stray animals.
These pieces of advice may seem easy and are of common sense. Surprisingly, one may easily forget until the experience becomes real and personal.
Prevention is still the way to go.