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of American households own pets. This percentage is a large
indication of the importance that pets have on today's
society. People love their pets and their companionship
provides positive health benefits to their owners. However, there
are times that pets can cause harm to their owners because of the
diseases they carry. It is important to be aware of some of the
possible health problems that can be initiated by pets.
Roundworms can cause
a disease that can be transmitted to humans by dogs and cats.
Roundworms are parasites that can infect humans because their eggs
live in the fecal contaminated soil and enter the body through
accidental ingestion. Dogs and cats can carry adult worms in their
intestinal tracts and shed the eggs in the animal's feces. The
damaging eggs can be transmitted to children after the eggs mature
one to three weeks in the soil, and then infect soil ingesting
children. Some symptoms include cough, shortness of breath,
abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea, blood in the stool, weight loss,
fatigue, and presence of a worm in the victim's vomit, stool, or
behind the eye.
"In extreme cases,
young children can lose an eye," explains Dr. Leon Russell,
professor in the veterinary integrative biosciences department at
the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical
Sciences (CVM). "Children pick up the eggs from dogs and cats and
their feces. The roundworms hatch out and become larvae, and they
then migrate around the body until they enter the brain and cause
damage. To avoid this, dogs and cats should be on a de-worming
treatment. It is also important to teach children personal hygiene
at a young age so that they can avoid infection and
Hookworms can also
cause health problems to humans via dogs and cats because they can
bring them into the house. Hookworm larvae penetrate the skin and
they migrate to the lungs. They then go into the trachea where they
are swallowed and enter the digestive tract. The larvae finally
enter the intestines where they mature into adult worms and live
off of the host's blood. Coughing, chest pain, and fever are
sometimes experienced by infected people. Severe infections can
lead to anemia and protein deficiency.
known as "litter box disease" is a rare disease that can be
transmitted to humans by ingestion of the eggs one to two days
after the eggs are passed in a cat's stool. This parasite can also
be acquired by eating undercooked meat, especially pork or mutton.
General symptoms include enlarged lymph nodes in the head and neck,
headache, mild illness with fever, muscle pain, and a sore throat.
The severity of this disease heightens when a pregnant woman is
infected because it can lead to an enlarged liver and spleen, eye
damage, hearing loss, jaundice, and other health problems to the
cat scratch disease is not as serious as other
diseases, but it can still cause health problems. A cat infected
with the bacteria Bartonella henselae can spread the disease to
humans via a bite, scratch, or contact with the cat's saliva on
broken skin or through the eye. Most cases improve without
treatment. If symptoms persist antibiotics may be subscribed to
alleviate the conditions. Symptoms include a bump or a blister at
the site of the injury, fatigue, fever, headache, swollen lymph
nodes, and overall discomfort.
Giardiasis is a less
publicized disease, but it is important to note because 20,000
cases were reported last year alone. People can contract this
disease by drinking water from infected rivers where animals have
defecated, especially dogs with diarrhea. Symptoms include
abdominal pain, diarrhea, gas or bloating, headache, loss of
appetite, fever, nausea, swollen abdomen, and vomiting. Sometimes
medicine is used to cure the disease, but giardiasis usually goes
away on its own.
been a real problem in day care centers," said Russell. "One child
will contract the disease and they will easily spread it to the
Some animals and
their habitats are sources of exposure to
Salmonella. There are over 2500 types of
Salmonella bacteria. Salmonella can become a serious problem so it
is important to be aware of the positive impact that cleanliness
has on your health. Symptoms range from nausea to blood in the
Many animals are
carriers of Salmonella and pet turtles are very common
"Children with pet
turtles need to be very careful when cleaning their aquariums,"
notes Russell. "Children can easily pick up the bacteria if they
don't properly clean and sterilize the aquarium and its contents
nor properly wash their hands afterward. Inadequate cleaning and
sanitizing can also result in contamination of other nearby
utensils that are exposed."
As a lot of these
symptoms are the same, people should consult their healthcare
professional if they think they have contracted any of these or
prevention for these diseases is to use common sense and to use
good personal hygiene practices," said Russell. "If you have pets
it is also important to talk with your local veterinarian and your
physician so your pet and you can keep up with your
Pet Talk is a
service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical
Sciences, Texas A&M University.
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