We all love our dogs, but did you know there are some diseases that humans can contract from contact with a sick dog? They are fairly rare, but it is a wise dog owner takes action to protect both the owner and the dog.
Zoonotic diseases are diseases caused by an infectious agent that can be transmitted between animals and humans. The one you are probably the most familiar with is rabies. Rabies is a viral disease that can be fatal to both people and dogs if not recognized and treated immediately. Rabies is transmitted through the saliva of a sick animal, usually through a bite.
Dogs with rabies can seem like they are acting oddly, or have problems with moving a limb or swallowing. There is no cure for rabies once you have symptoms, only treatment. If you are bitten by a dog, follow the advice of your physician and the vet, who may suggest that the dog should be observed for ten days after the bite for any signs of possible rabies infection. The best thing to do is to keep all dogs up to date with rabies vaccinations and booster shots.
Another disease we can contract from our dog is ringworm. Ringworm is a fungal skin disease which is highly contagious, especially for children. It is spread by direct contact but can also be airborne. Your vet can diagnose your dog if it has ringworm by cultures. Your dog may have round, hairless, scaly patches on her skin. If you think your dog might have ringworm, be sure not to let your child touch the dog until your vet has finished treating the dog.
Unlike ringworm, which is a fungus, roundworms are really worms and can spread from dogs to children, especially when the dogs are puppy age. Children need to be taught not to pick up or play with animal feces, and to use good hygiene with frequent hand washing when playing with a dog. Puppies need to be wormed early, and as the adult owner of a dog, you need to be responsible for disposing of fresh waste daily out of the way of you and your children.
Fleas and ticks are opportunists. If they are taking a ride on your dog, they could jump from your dog and onto you, increasing your risk of contracting parasite diseases such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Lyme disease, or ehrlichiosis. Once again the best treatment is prevention by being sure your dog is being treated with antiflea and tick medication, even in the offseason. If your dog has fleas, contact your vet and she may be able to advise you on methods of ridding the fleas from your environment.
Be especially vigilant about good hygiene and prevention of potential infections if your family includes people with cancer, AIDS/HIV, organ transplant patients, pregnant women, infants, and children under five, because these groups of people may be more susceptible to infection.
There are some simple steps you can take as a dog owner to prevent potential infections. Hand washing is the one of the most important, especially after handling dog feces. If you have children, you may want to supervise their hand washing.
Try not to directly handle animal feces. Wear a pair of gloves, and wash your hands even after you take the gloves off. Dispose of fresh waste immediately. Kissing your dog, especially children kissing a dog, may not be a great idea. Most importantly, all dog owners should have a close relationship with the vet, and be sure to bring your dog in for all necessary preventative vaccines or treatments. Now roll Rover over for a nice long belly rub. Then wash your hands!