Thursday, January 13, 2011

How To Be An Informed Owner

Zoonosis (zo-o-no-sis).  Not a very pretty word, now is it?  Wait 'til you know what it means!!  The World Health Organization definition is: "Those diseases or infections which are naturally transmitted between vertebrate mammals and man."  For our purposes, dogs and cats to humans, and specifically for this article, problems associated with parasites.  As veterinarians, we take an oath not only to maintain the health of animals, but through our activities to also ensure that interactions between pets and people is not a public health concern.  But we need your help.  In the following lines, we will discuss these concerns and how to avoid becoming a victim of zoonosis.

Most of the parasites we are familiar with are those living in our pets' intestines.  Roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms, giardia and coccideosis are all potential human pathogens.  The diseases are past in a fecal oral route.  I don't mean a poop sandwich, but minute particles of feces on our pets, in their mouths (have you seen the places your pet can reach?), in the soil, standing water, our floors, carpets, upholstery, bed linens, etc. etc. etc.  Multiply this by the many thousands of eggs shed daily by parasites and their ability to survive years in the environment under the harshest of circumstances.  It paints a daunting picture.  So what can we do?  Number one; stop the shedding of eggs into the environment.  Have your puppy or kitten dewormed, have adult pets' stool tested regularly (every 6 months), and use monthly products to prevent infestation.  (Heartworm preventatives are very effective.)  Pick up feces in the yard and litter box daily.  Wash hands and fruits and veggies.  Don't go barefoot, and do not drink water not known to be for human consumption.

The other important groups of parasites are those that live on the outside of the pet, specifically fleas and ticks.  Pets and people get tapeworms from ingesting fleas.  We are all aware of the threat of Lyme disease from ticks which can also spread related diseases of Ehrlichiosis and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.  If our pets are free of external parasites, then we reduce our own exposure.  Avoidance is simple due to the monthly flea and tick products currently available.  These products should be applied as early in the pet's life as the label allows and then used monthly forever!

Also, remember that our children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, etc. are most at risk and, as with so many other things in life, they depend on us to protect them.  Please help us help you keep the relationship between you and your pet a healthy one.  Bring us gifts of poop whenever you come to see us, and take parasite control seriously for the well being of both the pet and the human members of your family.

Brian C. Ray, DVM

No comments: