What Are Zoonotic Diseases?
Wed, April 21, 2021

What Are Zoonotic Diseases?



Humans are more likely to get infected with diseases from their pets and other animals than the other way around, noted Jean Marie Bauhaus of Hill’s Pet, an American pet food company. One well-known example of zoonotic diseases is rabies. Rabies is transmitted from pets to humans through bites or scratches. Zoonotic diseases are not always transmitted directly from pets, but from the parasites they carry. Some examples of parasites are hookworm, tapeworm, and more. Pets can also pass campylobacteriosis, toxoplasmosis or MRSA, and other bacterial infections to humans.  


Zoonotic Diseases and Parasite Control Practices Awareness Among Pet Owners In Qatar (2018)

Of the total respondents, 51.3% were sole cat owners, 20.7% were sole dog owners, and 18% were both cat and dog owners, said Ana Margarida Alho and colleagues of journal portal Research Gate. Most of the animals were rescued (44%), with the majority of the respondents adopting their pets from the streets (32.7%) or from shelters in Qatar (11.3%).

24% of owners imported their animals from foreign countries (ex: Australia, Bahrain, and more) to Qatar. The most common one being the UK (22.2%) and Ukraine (19.4%). Pets purchased from shops (6.7%), markets (7.3%), and breeders (1.3%) accounted for 15.3% of the pet population. Approximately 83% had their pets undergo a yearly vaccination program, with 64.7% believing that vaccinating their pets safeguards both human and animal health. Further, 18.7% said it protects only animals whereas 2% said it is for their own protection. With regard to internal parasite control, deworming practices had been done with the recommended treatment regimen (minimum quarterly) by only 19.3% of owners. 52.7% dewormed their pets every four months to one year, 10% had no defined pattern of frequency, and 8% had never internally dewormed their pets.

Among 150 owners, 54% were aware of transmittable disease between humans and animals. When asked about the meaning of “zoonosis/zoonotic disease(s),” 88% had never heard of it before. Among those who had heard about it (12%), only 15 respondents were aware of its meaning and able to describe it correctly. Some of the most cited examples of zoonotic diseases were dermatophytosis (ringworm; 21.3%), rabies (21.3%), toxoplasmosis (7.3%). Worms (6%), bartonellosis (2%), Lyme disease (2%), bird flu (1.3%), and diarrhea (1.3%).

Those living in the outskirts were more aware of dermatophytosis than residents living in Doha (44.4% versus 18.5%). Moreover, those who reported having previously suffered from zoonotic diseases were aware of dermatophytosis than those not afflicted by a zoonotic disease (69.2% versus 16.8%). Among participants who worked in the healthcare field (10.7%), only 12 were able to enumerate examples of diseases transmittable between animals and humans.

Only five had heard of “zoonosis/zoonotic disease/s” and just four were able to define it. 8.7% of owners had suffered from zoonotic diseases and of those, 10 of them suffered from dermatophytosis, two from cat-scratch disease, and one from an unknown tick-borne disease.  The findings showed that pet owners in Qatar had a low awareness of zoonotic diseases as well as parasite control practices for dogs and cats.  The authors emphasized the need to raise pet owners’ awareness about transmittable diseases and effective prophylactic measures to reduce their risk of contracting zoonotic diseases.




Who Are Most Susceptible to Zoonotic Diseases?

People with compromised immune systems are more likely to be afflicted with zoonotic diseases and fall ill, said AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association), a not-for-profit association. Unlike those who are healthy, having compromised immune systems prevent sick people from fighting off infections. Very young people and the elderly, people with diseases like cancer and HIV, and those receiving medical therapy or medications like chemotherapy or steroids that can affect their immune systems should exercise caution around animals. On the same vein, puppies, kittens, and senior dogs and cats are also susceptible to contracting zoonotic diseases.


Are Some Animals More Likely to Carry Zoonotic Diseases?

Any animal or pet can carry it so long as they become infected. To illustrate, birds and chicks, as well as certain species of reptiles and rodents may be more likely to carry Salmonella. Salmonella is a bacteria that causes intestinal issues and other infections. Hamsters can carry a virus that causes nervous system disease and cats can infect you with an organism that causes toxoplasmosis. Dogs can infect you, which can lead to dermatological issues, organ damage, and blindness. If your pets are healthy, they are less likely to be infected and transmit the diseases to you.



What Are Some Examples of Zoonotic Diseases?

1.   Cat Scratch Disease

When you are scratched or bitten by a cat infected with Bartonella henselae bacteria, you can develop cat scratch disease, stated  Stephen C. Eppes, MD, of Kids Health, a physician-reviewed online source for parenting and children’s health.  Signs of this disease include swollen and tender lymph nodes, fever, fatigue, and headaches. These usually ease without undergoing treatment, but your doctor may instruct you to take antibiotics if you have a severe case of cat scratch disease. This disease can also cause long-term complications.

2. Campylobacter Infection

When your pets carry the Campylobacter jejuni bacteria and infects you, you can suffer from diarrhea, abdominal pain, and fever. This bacteria may be present in the intestinal tracts of certain farm animals, dogs, cats, birds, and hamsters. You can become infected when you come into contact with contaminated water, feces, unpasteurized milk, or undercooked meat.

3.   Toxoplasmosis

You can be infected when come in contact with a parasite found in cat feces. Toxoplasma has no symptoms in most healthy people, but when symptoms manifest, these can include muscle pain, rashes, swollen glands, and more. If you’re pregnant, toxoplasmosis can lead to miscarriage, severe illness, blindness in newborns, and premature births.

4.   Lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV)

You can get infected with LCMV when you inhale particles from urine, feces, or saliva from infected rodents like hamsters or mice. It can cause flu-like symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, fever, fatigue, headaches, and muscle aches. LCMV can also lead to meningitis (inflammation of the membrane surrounding the brain and spinal cord) and encephalitis (inflammation of the brain). There is no specific treatment for LCMV, but some people might need to be hospitalized. LCMV can also be passed from an infected pregnant woman to her fetus.

5.   Mycobacterium marinum

The infection occurs when you are exposed to contaminated water in aquariums or pools. In general, it is mild and limited to the skin, but mycobacterium marinum infections can be severed if you have HIV or a weakened immune system.


Wash your hands after handling your pet or cleaning up its food, litterbox, or bedding. Be sure to keep your pet’s vaccinations up to date, as well as your family’s. It is also recommended to consult your veterinarian on how to keep parasites like ticks in control.