Devoted to More Wags and Purrs.

Pets are Falsely Accused of Spreading Diseases

 

[dramatic music crescendo]

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, in closing, my client Fluffy McTailwaggins, could, in fact, not possibly be guilty of the crimes he for which he has been accused. The prosecutors, ignoring all scientific evidence, have falsely accused my defendant, and many pets, of spreading diseases which are not their fault. While blaming the dog whenever for passing gas may be fun, these accusations are serious, unfair, unfounded, and cause many pets to lose their homes unnecessarily. Some of the diseases that typically do NOT come from pets include Toxoplasmosis, head lice and pinworms.

 

Toxoplasmosis is a very frightening disease for pregnant women. Women exposed for the first time to this parasite while pregnant can have their fetus sustain severe brain damage, and may even be linked to schizophrenia. Cats can have severe symptoms as well, from seizures and other neurologic symptoms or severe liver disease. While many pregnant women are told that they need to give that cat up because of the risk of this parasite, few obstetricians warn their patients about the most common ways to catch toxoplasmosis, which includes eating undercooked meat, especially pork, and from the soil exposure, such as during gardening. Fully cooking meat, and wearing gardening gloves and washing hands afterwards, are immensely more important preventative measures than forcing cats out of their homes. Cats typically catch toxoplasmosis from prey, so keeping a cat indoors is by far the best prevention. Wearing gloves and washing hands after cleaning the litter box are easy ways to avoid even the very small risk a cat my bring. Additionally, because the toxoplasmosis spores take more than day to become infective, cleaning the litter box daily can further eliminate the risk.

 

Head lice (Pediculus humanus capitis) are a skin parasite known to many parents of school age children. Lice feed on blood, and can be very difficult to remove from any animal. Most mammals and birds have lice that live upon them, but these pests are very picky about from whom they feed off. Human lice feed on humans, and dog lice feed on dogs. While human lice may bite a dog, and can even cause itchiness, they cannot live on a dog. Dog lice may temporarily live on a person, and even lead to a rash, but they cannot reproduce and propagate unless they are on a dog. If your kids have head lice, it simply cannot be from the family dog.

 

Pinworms (Enterobius), also known as threadworms or seatworms, are disgusting, yet common parasites of children and adults. These very small worms are known for causing intense itchiness as they leave the rectum.  Pinworms, like many intestinal parasites, are species specific- people worms live in people, not in dogs or cats. Children who catch pinworms have caught them from other people, not from the family dog or cat. Hygiene and hand-washing are imperative to prevent transmission of pinworms. Pinworms are not the same as tapeworms, which look like flat grains of rice and can be commonly found in the stool of dogs and cats. Dogs and cats who have tapeworms typically catch them by eating fleas, though eating rodents or other wildlife may expose them as well. Good flea control, as well as keeping your cat inside, can reduce their exposure to tapeworms.

 

There are diseases, and parasites, that can pass between pets and people. Too often these days, pets lose their homes because of worries about diseases which could not be their fault. Gentlemen and ladies of the jury, I rest my case.

 Dr. Michael Rumore