Zoo … what?
A zoonosis is a disease or infection that has the potential to spread from pets to their owners and in some cases vice versa.
There are more than sixty diseases with the potential of being zoonotic but fortunately most of these diseases are rare.
The most common zoonotic diseases we see in South Africa regarding our pets are:
- Ringworm & Rabies
- Sarcoptic mange & Giardia
- Cat scratch disease & Worms
- Tick bite fever & Toxoplasma (rare)
- Psittacosis (birds)
How to prevent zoonosis
Fortunately with good personal hygiene and taking a few precautions you can protect yourself from contracting a zoonosis.
- Annual veterinary visits and appropriate vaccinations.
- Food safety – feed a good quality diet from a reputable source. Take care with raw meat and unpasteurized milk.
- Good toilet manners – do not allow pets to drink out of the toilet. Wear gloves when cleaning up pet poo and wash your hands afterwards.
- Keep the parasites under control – monthly flea and tick prevention and regular worming.
- No “take-aways” on walkies… do not allow your pet to scavenge or to eat poo.
- Do not allow your pet to hunt (easier said than done with certain kitty-cats).
- Treat a scratch or bite immediately by washing it with soap and water and rinsing it for 10 minutes under running water. Contact your physician if it is a serious bite/scratch.
- Isolate sick animals and wear protection when you work with them
- If you often exposed to stray animals ask your physician about rabies vaccination for yourself.
- Control rodents.
Fortunately most zoonotic diseases can be treated but some can be fatal (rabies). Immune-compromised individuals are more at risk of contracting a zoonosis and developing more serious disease.
Take extra special care with
- young children,
- pregnant women,
- people with HIV infection and
- the elderly.
- If you are receiving cancer treatment, had a transplant or use immunosuppressive medication like cortisone take extra precaution.
- If you had a splenectomy (removal of the spleen) you may be more prone to contracting tick bite fever.
For a more extensive list of zoonotic diseases visit:
Article written by: Dr Adel Ferreira