Sunday, 24 February 2008

Zoonoses - You Can Catch Them From Your Dog - A Cautionary Tale!

So what are zoonoses?

Also called zoonotic diseases, they are animal diseases which also affect people.
Here I will only be considering dog diseases.

A Cautionary Tale

Let's kick off with a true story.
One day while I was cleaning the kennels, I had a terrible itch near my left armpit. So I put my hand under my shirt and had a good ol' scratch.
A few days later I awoke to find what looked like red fingermarks near my left armpit.I assumed that they came from sleeping on my hand.
They didn't go away and then they started to appear on the other side. After I took a long hot bath I noticed faint red marks on my chest and stomach. Time to see my GP!
I found myself topless in a semi-darkened room, under an ultra-violet light, with no less than three doctors seeing if I would glow in the dark!
The UV light came from a special lamp with a magnifying glass called a Wood's Lamp.
Some skin diseases such as ringworm fluoresce under UV light. (Ringworm glows green).
I didn't glow and nobody was sure quite what sort of fungal infection I had - it would have required laboratory analysis.
So I was prescribed a special cream to apply. It didn't work and the infection continued its march South!
Then I had a long course of tablets (several weeks) which eventually cleared up the problem.
In the meantime I had to be scrupulously hygienic. I kept my towel away from others, slept in old shirts which were then destroyed. (They would have needed to be washed at very high temperatures). It also meant I had to be careful when giving my wife a hug!

Scratching your bare skin is an ideal way of introducing something nasty. With my knowledge and experience, I should have known better than doing that whilst I was cleaning kennels.
I used to drum into trainees the need to wash their hands thoroughly before eating, drinking or smoking. Add to that scratching!

Over to the technical stuff.

Zoonoses / Zoonotic Diseases

There are a few canine diseases which also affect people. These are known as "zoonoses".
The most important are:

- Rabies. A killer. It is a viral disease transmitted by saliva from an infected dog.No known cure, but both dogs and people can be vaccinated against it. If you visit a country with rabies obviously be wary of stray dogs. If somebody's pet dog licks you then wash thoroughly a.s.a.p. And if you get bitten (even a tiny nip) ,thoroughly wash the area and seek medical help at once. If caught in time (before it spreads to the brain) you can be treated.

- Ringworm. An infectious fungus which grows on the skin and within the dog's coat. Can be treated with special shampoos, creams, and oral drugs. Highly contagious.

- Fleas. Do prefer their own host but a human will do in an emergency. Dog fleas can act as intermediate hosts for other parasites. Difficult to physically kill - try squeezing them between your fingernails.

- Roundworm. The most important ones belong to the Ascarid family. Toxocara canis and Toxoscaris leonina live in the small intestine. Others infest the large intestine. Dog worms can infect people, and sometimes cause disease. Rarely, they cause a cyst in childrens eyes, which may require an infected eye to be removed. Good hygiene and common sense where children and dogs (especially puppies) are concerned should prevent problems. Puppies with worms have a 'garlic' breath.

I hope you don't have nightmares!
Simple precautions such as thoroughly washing and drying your hands (please don't underrate how effective this is) ,and being observant about your dog's condition are all that's really needed.

Well that's 'Z' is for... dealt with! I told you a couple of weeks ago that I had an article sorted out.
And, no ,I'm not cheating by jumping around. It's more interesting for me to post something which is in my mind, than to systematically plough through the alphabet.
Talk to you again soon,

No comments: