What you don’t know can hurt you.
How often do you “smooch” with your pet? Does your pet give you a friendly sniff then lick your face or hand? Always be affectionate – but remember that lip-to-lip and tongue-to-tongue contact should be avoided. Veterinarians in Markham state that “this could mean trouble”.
Myth: Pets’ mouths are clean…
Many veterinarians, doctors, and pet care professionals from all over the world agree: Pets’ mouths contain huge amount of bacteria and other potentially harmful organism… don’t kiss and tell, not to mention the smell!
Diseases that can be transmitted from animals to people are called Zoonoses (plural of Zoonosis). They include diseases born by bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites. Once you read up on Zoonosis, it can be quite scary. It is our professional obligation to raise awareness and to let you know what you should look out for.
No reason for panic…
Some of the most common questions veterinarians in Markham get, are from pet-owner couples who have just had a baby. These include: Do I have to give our dog (or cat) away now that we have a newborn? Is my dog or cat a threat to my new baby? Is there anything I can do in my home to make things safer?
… but follow some rules:
At the other extreme, some people are not the least bit concerned. Zoonoses are transmitted by contact. Eating from the same plate as your dog, being licked on the hands, while eating a sandwich, or getting a quick kiss on the lips as a sign of affection all could give you the bug that causes trouble. Animals can pass along parasites, worms or bacteria to humans, so direct facial contact should be avoided.
Veterinary studies observed that about one in 10 pets has parasites. A Markham veterinarian reports that at his pet clinic over 50% of these parasites have the ability to infect people.
Owners often tell me they know their pet doesn’t have parasites, because they don’t see any worms in the feces. Remember, most parasites are too small to be visible (protozoa) or the relatively large adult worms stay inside the body and only microscopic eggs are being shed. Only specific laboratory testing can identify the parasites.
So, we must follow the hygiene rules our parents taught us, but we don’t need to live in a glass bubble of a germ free environment.
Ironically, research studies have shown that adults and children exposed to dogs, cats, birds and other pets show less infections and less allergies that those who overly protect themselves while with their pets. A bit of dirt, dander, and pet hair seems to be helping the immune system to be alert and effective.
My own personal belief as a professional veterinarian and caring pet owner boils down to the strength of each person’s immune system. While most of us can fight off the relatively harmless pathogens our pets might carry, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Yes, love your pets and do be affectionate, but remember that any vet clinic or pet doctor will tell you that a consistent middle-of-the-road approach is best.
Advice to all pet owners:
- Wash your hands after contact with your pet (you don’t want get any bacteria they might have)
- Always use separate plates for pets (unlike humans, cats and dogs are never late for dinner)
- When you pet your pet, try not to touch your face or mouth afterwards
- Keep your pet’s coat, teeth and mouth as clean as possible
- Have a fecal parasite check (stool sample) done at least once a year
Dr. Ernst Marsig
Practicing Veterinary Medicine in Markham for a Long and Happy Life of ALL Your Pets.
Animal Hospital of Unionville, a veterinary clinic on the north side of Hwy 7, serving all pets in Markham, Richmond Hill, Scarborough, Stouffville, and North York since 1966. We are your family vets for dogs, cats, pocket pets (rabbits, chinchillas, gerbils, mice, rats, hamsters, guinea pigs, skinny pigs, etc.), ferrets, and birds (budgies, cockatiel, parrots, amazon, cockatoo, love birds, conures, African greys, finches, canaries, etc.).
Disclaimer: No part of this website constitutes medical advice. Readers are advised to consult with their veterinarian.