Pet-Related Infections

 

Physicians and veterinarians have many opportunities to partner in promoting the well-being of people and their pets, especially by addressing zoonotic diseases that may be transmitted between a pet and a human family member. Common cutaneous pet-acquired zoonoses are dermatophytosis (ringworm) and sarcoptic mange (scabies), which are both readily treated. Toxoplasmosis can be acquired from exposure to cat feces, but appropriate hygienic measures can minimize the risk to pregnant women. Persons who work with animals are at increased risk of acquiring bartonellosis (e.g., cat-scratch disease); control of cat fleas is essential to minimize the risk of these infections. People and their pets share a range of tick-borne diseases, and exposure risk can be minimized with use of tick repellent, prompt tick removal, and appropriate tick control measures for pets. Pets such as reptiles, amphibians, and backyard poultry pose a risk of transmitting Salmonella species and are becoming more popular. Personal hygiene after interacting with these pets is crucial to prevent Salmonella infections. Leptospirosis is more often acquired from wildlife than infected dogs, but at-risk dogs can be protected with vaccination. The clinical history in the primary care office should routinely include questions about pets and occupational or other exposure to pet animals. Control and prevention of zoonoses are best achieved by enhancing communication between physicians and veterinarians to ensure patients know the risks of and how to prevent zoonoses in themselves, their pets, and other people.

Many households in the United States have one or more species of pet animal. The most popular pets are dogs and cats, but rabbits and backyard poultry are increasingly common in domestic settings, and a wide range of reptiles and other “exotic” species are entering our homes. Pets bring enormous social and health-related benefits to people,1 but they can also transmit disease. Physicians and veterinarians have the opportunity to collaborate in their interactions with patients and pets to optimize health for all.

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SORT: KEY RECOMMENDATIONS FOR PRACTICE

Clinical recommendationEvidence ratingReferences

Pets bring enormous social and health-related benefits to their human families.

C

1

Physicians and veterinarians should take advantage of opportunities to collaborate to improve the health of people and their pets.

C

5

The clinical history should routinely include questions about whether the family keeps pets or has any other exposure to animals.

C

5

It is unnecessary for families to rehome pets diagnosed with dermatophytosis (ringworm), scabies, toxoplasmosis, bartonellosis, tick-borne infection, salmonellosis, or leptospirosis if infections are managed appropriately.

C, A for toxoplasmosis

613

Reptiles and amphibians are not recommended pets for children younger than five years because of increased risk of Salmonella infection.

C

2931


A = consistent, good-quality patient-oriented evidence; B = inconsistent or limited-quality patient-oriented evidence; C = consensus, disease-oriented evidence, usual practice, expert opinion, or case series. For information about the SORT evidence rating system, go to http://www.aafp.org/afpsort.

SORT: KEY RECOMMENDATIONS FOR PRACTICE

Clinical recommendationEvidence ratingReferences

Pets bring enormous social and health-related benefits to their human families.

C

1

Physicians and veterinarians should take advantage of opportunities to collaborate to improve the health of people and their pets.

C

5

The clinical history should routinely include questions about whether the family keeps pets or has any other exposure to animals.

C

5

It is unnecessary for families to rehome pets diagnosed with dermatophytosis (ringworm), scabies, toxoplasmosis, bartonellosis, tick-borne infection, salmonellosis, or leptospirosis if infections are managed appropriately.

C, A for toxoplasmosis

613

Reptiles and amphibians are not recommended pets for children younger than five years because of increased risk of Salmonella infection.

C

2931


A = consistent, good-quality patient-oriented evidence; B = inconsistent or limited-quality patient-oriented evidence; C = consensus, disease-oriented evidence, usual practice, expert opinion, or case series. For information about the SORT evidence rating system, go to http://www.aafp.org/afpsort.

One area in which physicians and veterinarians are able to readily work together is in addressing infectious diseases that can be transmitted between animals and humans (zoonoses). These diseases can be spread directly, through contact with infected animals; indirectly, through contact with contamination in the animal's environment; or via the vector-borne route (involving transmission by arthropods such as ticks, fleas, flies, or mosquitoes). Often, the clinical disease affects both the person and the pet, but sometimes the pet may appear healthy only to have a subclinical infection or colonization that can lead to illness

The Author

MICHAEL J. DAY, BSc, BVMS(Hons), PhD, DSc, DiplECVP, FASM, FRCPath, FRCVS, is Professor of Veterinary Pathology at the University of Bristol, Langford, United Kingdom, and Chairman of the World Small Animal Veterinary Association One Health Committee.

Address correspondence to Michael J. Day, BSc, BVMS, PhD, DSc, University of Bristol, Langford House, Langford, North Somerset, BS40 5DU (e-mail: m.j.day@bristol.ac.uk). Reprints are not available from the author.

Author disclosure: No relevant financial affiliations.

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