Zoonoses – Animal Diseases That Can Infect People

Written by Dr Megan Rowles

There seems to be an increasing number of owners who share their houses, food and beds with their pets, and the human-animal bond has been shown to have massive mental health benefits for pet owners. 
However, it is important to remember basic hygiene, as in return for that extra TLC, some diseases our furry and feathered friends carry or contract may be shared with us.

A common presenting problem for sick dogs is diarrhoea. 

Sorry if I just ruined your morning coffee! 

Diarrhoea can be caused by many, many bugs including Salmonella, Cryptosporidium and Giardia. 
These three are all known to cause diarrhoea in humans.
On the topic of Salmonella, any poultry owner or reptile owner should be aware that chooks, ducks, lizards etc. all have salmonella as a normal part of their poo. 
It will not make your pet sick but it certainly can make you very ill.

Aviary bird owners need to know about a disease called Psittacosis, caused by a strain of chlamydia. 
It can be contracted by inhaling dust containing feather dander or droppings or by kissing an infected bird. 
Infected humans feel like they have a version of the flu, one that can be fatal if not diagnosed in time. 
Be sure to tell your doctor that you own birds if you have severe, flu-like symptoms as the condition is not a common one. 
It is treatable once a diagnosis is made.

Hydatid tapeworms spread in dog faeces and Toxoplasmosis spread via cat faeces have already been the topic of previous articles. 

Ringworm, most commonly diagnosed in very young animals, is a fungal infection that can be transmitted by direct contact. 

Q-fever, which causes a chronic fatigue syndrome, has been diagnosed in people assisting with the birth of puppies or kittens. 
It is most commonly contracted from livestock and is preventable via humans receiving a one-off vaccination.

I could continue but I think you get the picture. 

The good news is that it is not common to catch diseases from your pet and there are some simple things you can do to reduce your risk further. 

  • Don't kiss them or encourage licking, especially if you feed your dog or cat a raw food diet. 
  • Worm pets regularly as recommended by your vet, keep cages and litter trays clean and poo scoop the backyard regularly. 
  • Also, at risk of sounding like your mother, always remember to wash your hands!