(NaturalNews) It is a well-known fact that pet owners are generally happier and healthier than folks who do not share their lives with companion animals. For example, children who grow up in families that own pets are less likely to suffer from infections, allergies, asthma and other common childhood ailments, according to recent studies. However, animals do carry germs and risk infecting humans with diseases.
Most pet owners will agree that their animal friends provide them with emotional support. They may help owners overcome depression or reduce anxiety, stress and blood pressure. Elderly people benefit from the exercise and companionship a dog can provide. Many people will admit to sharing their beds or homes with their pets, but as much as they are loved, furry friends do carry parasites which can be harmful to humans.
Parasites Carried by Dogs and Cats
While we can avoid direct contact with a pet's feces, we cannot always be sure they will be as hygienic. A dog may lick its behind and then lick your face, thereby transmitting worms. Puppies can pass the Campylobacter bacteria in their stools, and this can cause infection in the gastrointestinal system. Symptoms include diarrhea, fever, stomach cramps, vomiting and nausea. In a worst-case scenario, it may lead to a serious condition called Guillain-Barre syndrome, a disease that occurs when the body's immune system attacks part of the nervous system.
Hookworm is common in pets and, if transmitted to humans, causes itching and raised red lines where the larvae settle under the skin. Scratching can cause a bacterial infection. Roundworm is also common, and symptoms include fatigue, nausea, stomach cramps, inflammation and weight loss. The larvae may go to the liver and cause further damage.
Some tapeworms of dogs and cats, such as the flea tapeworm Dipylidium caninum, can also infect people. Other common pet parasites include heartworms, whipworms and ticks. Ringworm is a fungal infection that is easily transmitted through contact with pets. Leptospira bacteria are excreted through animals' urine, and exposure can cause leptospirosis, an infection with symptoms that include dry cough, fever, headache, muscle pain, nausea and vomiting.
Cats may carry a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii. When transmitted to humans, these parasites are possibly linked to mental health problems, including schizophrenia.
According to the National Center for Infectious Diseases, it is unlikely that a person will become infected by parasites by just owning a pet, but it is important to ensure that animals are kept clean and parasite-free. It is also important to ensure that your family is dewormed regularly.
About the author: Fleur Hupston is a professional freelance writer. She is passionate about living as natural a life as possible and reducing damage to the environment wherever possible. She spends a lot of time researching and writing about alternate medicines and healthy, green living, and manages to find the time to home-school her two daughters.