If you love your dog, you get close to him: this is normal, but it can also be dangerous. Because in addition to being caressed, a lot of microorganisms and possible pathogens are exchanged. We explain which diseases are particularly common from dogs to humans and how you can protect yourself against zoonoses.
Communicable Parasites: Fleas, Ticks, and Worms
The most common pathogens that can be transmitted from dogs to humans are parasites. These include above all so-called Echinococcus infections, in English: tapeworms.
Dogs transmit mainly the dog tapeworm (Echinococcus granulosus) and the fox tapeworm (Echinococcus multilocularis), but also hookworms and dwarf threadworms. The worms are transmitted through the dog’s faeces.
Children, in particular, become infected through poor hygiene when dealing with a sick animal.
Fleas are also a common parasite that can spread to humans. The annoying parasites spread quickly and are not only found on the dog’s skin and hair, but also in home textiles and on the human body. A clear signal of a flea infestation is small, closely spaced bites combined with severe itching.
Another annoying parasite is the tick. When walking in the woods and meadows, it gets on the dog’s body unnoticed. The tick does not always bite the dog to suck blood. It often ends up on the human body when it is stroked or via detours. Ticks can transmit dangerous diseases such as Lyme disease and TBE.
Common Diarrhea Pathogens: Giardia
Giardia is a very common diarrhea pathogen in dogs. The protozoa are found in the small intestine and in the faeces of the infected dog and are transmitted to humans in particular via the faeces and smear infections. If a person falls ill with the highly contagious Giardia, nausea and severe diarrhea are the results.
Highly Contagious: Skin Fungi
Fungi, especially skin fungi, which are transmitted from an infected dog to humans, are highly contagious. Two fungal diseases are particularly common in dogs: trichophytosis and the fungal species Microsporum canis. Typical symptoms in dogs are brittle fur, hair loss, and red, flaky skin. Itching and scratching can also occur.
The dangerous thing about zoonosis: The fungal disease is not only transmitted through direct contact with the affected dog, but also through dog hair, textiles, and grooming accessories, and other objects that have come into contact with the dog. As a result, skin fungi are particularly common between humans and animals.
Deadly Virus: Rabies
Rabies is the best-known zoonosis. The virus infection is transmitted to humans and animals through a bite through the saliva of infected animals. Infection with the rabies virus, which is responsible for rabies, cannot be cured and is usually fatal.
The rabies virus is mainly transmitted by wild animals, for example, foxes, but also wild dogs and unvaccinated dogs imported from abroad. Rabies is usually transmitted to humans through an infected dog.
Fortunately, there is an effective vaccine against the rabies virus, so that humans and dogs can protect themselves from the deadly disease.
Stuttgart Dog Disease: Leptospirosis
Leptospirosis is a zoonosis that is also known as Weil’s disease or Stuttgart dog disease. It is a disease caused by a bacteria called leptospira. Dogs can become infected with the bacterium almost anywhere, for example when drinking from puddles or bathing in a pool.
The bacterial infection can be transmitted to humans via wounds and via the mucous membranes. While the disease primarily affects the liver and kidneys in dogs, affected people suffer from flu-like symptoms and fever.
How to Prevent Zoonoses From Your Dog
So that it doesn’t even get to the point that you or your dog get sick, you should prevent zoonosis. You can protect yourself against many infections with vaccinations and simple hygiene measures. With these 10 tips, many zoonoses can be prevented in advance:
- Handle your dog carefully to avoid bites and scratches. Also, avoid contact with stray dogs or dogs abroad.
- Don’t let strange dogs lick you off. If your own dog licks you off, avoid contact of the saliva with mucous membranes and wounds, and wash the affected areas thoroughly.
- Keep dogs away from your face as much as possible. Don’t give your dog kisses or share food with your dog.
- Wash your hands regularly after petting your dog.
- When collecting dog poop, wear disposable gloves or use poop bags so that the dog poop does not come into contact with your skin.
- Don’t let your dog sleep in bed, but in a dog bed or on a dog blanket. Wash all dog pillows and dog blankets regularly at 60 degrees.
- Take regular checkups at the vet to rule out diseases and infections.
- Get your dog vaccinated and discuss with your doctor whether you should be vaccinated against rabies – especially if you plan to travel abroad.
- Dewormer your dog regularly to prevent the transmission of tapeworms.
- Let your veterinarian advise you on further protective measures, for example on spot-on products to ward off parasites.