The technical term zooanthroponosis describes animal diseases that are contagious to humans. These can be transmitted to humans by various pathogens and forms of infection from dogs and other animals. Read here which diseases can be transmitted to you through zooanthroponosis.
What are zoonosis and zooanthroponosis?
Every animal owner should be familiar with the terms zoonosis and zooanthroponosis. The words come from ancient Greek. Zōon means “animal”, nósos “disease” and anthrop “man”. So it’s about diseases that can go back and forth between animals and humans. One speaks of zooanthroponosis when it comes to diseases that are transmitted to humans from animals in general and dogs in particular.
Diseases are transmitted by viruses, bacteria, fungi, or parasites. The onset of the disease in dogs and humans is not necessarily identical. Dogs can act as intermediate hosts without suffering any symptoms themselves. Some pathogens infect humans and use them as so-called false hosts. Some diseases are transmitted to humans through the consumption of animal products. The BSE causative agent of cattle disease is a good example of this.
You should keep in mind that there is always a possibility of infection. But that’s no reason to stop playing and having carefree contact with the dog. The reverse is also possible: we can also infect our dogs (anthropozoonosis).
Rabies – an extremely dangerous disease
One of the worst diseases that can be transmitted through zooanthroponosis is rabies. It is a viral infection that can be transmitted through blood and is therefore usually associated with a bite from infected dogs. But even small injuries are enough for the virus to get into our bloodstream. Rabies is almost always fatal in both humans and animals.
In dogs, the first symptoms such as unmotivated barking and aggressive behavior as well as increased salivation (“foaming at the mouth”), swallowing difficulties, and later paralysis appear after about three weeks.
In humans, the incubation period of the virus is longer. The first signs only appear after one to three months. The disease begins like the flu, then causes meningitis or spinal cord inflammation and paralysis. It is also accompanied by typical tantrums. Germany has been officially “rabies-free” since 2008. Nevertheless, you should have your dog vaccinated and, especially if you travel a lot, also think about vaccinating yourself.
Leptospirosis – a bacterial infection
Leptospirosis is one of the canine diseases that can be transmitted to humans through contact with the animal’s blood or urine. These are bacterial pathogens that cause symptoms in dogs such as vomiting, loss of appetite and fever, and, in severe cases, bloody stools. The disease is fatal in around 10 percent of dogs.
In humans, leptospirosis is similar to the flu and can be treated with antibiotics. The vaccination of dogs against leptospirosis so far only covers four pathogen strains (zero variants) and lasts between six months and one year.
Mange – unpleasant pests
Mange, or scabies, is a highly contagious mite infection. The mites migrate from host to host. Simple skin contact with the animal is enough to get the pests. Humans serve as false hosts for the mites. The good news: If we live with our dogs under good hygienic conditions, in most cases there will be no symptoms. Because the immune system curbs the plague and keeps the number of parasites to a minimum.
Dogs show symptoms such as red, scaly, calloused skin, severe itching, and hair loss. In humans, the skin also turns red and begins to itch. Personal hygiene and a clean environment are the best preventive measures against mites of all kinds. Dogs and humans are treated with special medication, medicinal baths/solutions, and appropriate disinfection of the entire living environment. Treatment should be started as soon as possible.
Tapeworms: fox tapeworm and dog tapeworm
Tapeworm infestation can also be transmitted from dogs to humans. Tapeworms are contracted by ingesting the eggs. Normally, the risk of infection in Europe is low. While in dogs deworming is usually sufficient to prevent further spread, the nesting of tapeworms in humans can be dangerous.
Both fox and dog tapeworm infestations must be reported, as they can lead to extremely dangerous diseases. Tapeworm larvae nest in various human organs and may have to be surgically removed. When the cysts are cut out, there is a risk of them bursting open and thus spreading in the body.
Dog roundworm – carrier of toxocariasis
Toxocariasis is transmitted orally to humans through dog (or cat) feces. Dogs only show symptoms when there is a massive infestation. Veterinarians, therefore, recommend regular deworming in dogs. Humans act as false hosts for roundworms. The infection can only be detected by an antibody test. Hygiene is also the number one precautionary measure for dog roundworms, especially clean playgrounds for children are important.
The larvae of the roundworms reach the organs via the bloodstream and nest in humans, especially in the liver and lungs, as well as in the brain and eyes. There are currently various drug treatments, although surgical removal is not recommended.