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Many of us have pets: cats, dogs, ornamental fish or birds. Unfortunately, we are not well versed in the care of animals nor are we aware of the danger they can pose to their human family. We must consult veterinarians who are trained in animal care.
Cats are not as territorial as the dogs. They come and go freely, they do not dirty the house and they are affectionate. Unfortunately, they can be asymptomatic and yet transmit rabies, that deadly disease through scratches and bites. Since they roam freely and fight with other cats, it is not possible to control them. Scratches and bites can also result in a “cat scratch disease.” A blister develops at the site of the scratch; the local lymph nodes enlarge, there may be general symptoms such as a headache, fever, painful muscles and fatigue. It may take several months to recover completely. Contact with the feces of an infected cat can cause salmonellosis, giardia and worm infestation. The worms have a tendency to migrate under the skin and produce itchy red rashes. Cats can spread toxoplasmosis. Although this parasitic infection is harmless in healthy adults, it is dangerous in pregnant women. The unborn child might be affected, producing “congenital toxoplasmosis”. This can result in a miscarriage or in a child with multiple problems such as blindness, deafness, seizures and mental retardation.
In some way, the fish seems harmless. They are calming down in effect and only swim in a tank. However, every aquarium needs frequent care and change of water. This means contact with water, although not necessarily with the fish themselves. Fish can be asymptomatic carriers of bacteria and viruses such as mycobacteria (of the family that causes tuberculosis), streptococci, Klebsiella and salmonella. If salmonella is ingested it can cause diarrhea. The other micro-organisms can invade the skin and produce ulcers and nodules. They can affect the heart, the brain, and the joints. They can cause atypical tuberculosis.
Dogs are man’s best friends. They are handled, caressed and cuddled by humans. They can transmit campylobacter and worms (hookworms, roundworms, and tapeworms). The most dangerous of all, dogs can behave asymptomatically and transmit the fatal rabies infection.
Parrots, mynas, and lovebirds are popular pets. They comfortably stay in cages, do not eat much and sleep at night. But they can also suffer infections, however, be asymptomatic and transmit the disease to their human family. Parrot fever, Avian flu, salmonellosis and a number of other viral infections are transmitted to humans from birds. Birds can also be infested with small ticks and fleas that can cause allergies in humans.
Keeping pets has advantages. They relieve loneliness in elderly and sick people who are alone. It enforces some amounts of exercise on its owners since dogs (unlike cats) must be taken for a walk. Reduce stress. Inculcates responsibility and discipline in children. Improves functioning in autistic children. With some precautions, keeping pets can be safe and provide immeasurable benefits for physical and mental health. Just keep these things in mind.
• Immunize your dog or cat. Deworm them regularly. Give reinforcements every year. Remember, despite regular vaccination and deworming, they can carry the virus.
• Immunize yourself and all family members against rabies. Pre-exposure prophylaxis generally consists of 3 injections in the arm on days 1, 7, and 21 or 28.
• Always ensure to wash your hands after touching any pet.
• Wear rubber gloves and use an apron while cleaning fish tanks.
• Do not keep birds inside the room. Keep them in an area where there is plenty of ventilation and sunlight.