DR ALI RAZA Many people in our country keep pets - dogs, cats or birds - at their homes, but quite a few of them are unaware of the danger they pose to them and their family, if proper safety measures are not adopted against the diseases of pets, which can be transmitted to human beings. In our country, most people are unaware of these diseases, called zoonotic diseases, and those who have some idea hardly take necessary precautions. There are different types of diseases, bacterial, viral and parasitic, which are transmissible to humans. Some of them can be transferred directly from your pets to you i.e. through direct contact with the animals, but some diseases can be transferred indirectly e.g. encountering infected excreta and saliva. Sometimes a living organism, ticks or insects, is responsible for the transmission of these infectious. The pets show particular signs of harbouring the zoonotic diseases. Thus, their owners must watch them for those specific symptoms. Some of the important diseases and their signs are described here for the benefit of pet lovers. Cat Scratch Disease: This disease is caused by a bacteria carried in cat saliva. It can be passed to humans through biting, scratching or licking on the naked skin. The symptoms of this disease in humans include the development of a blister or bump at the site of scratch or bite and swelling of adjacent lymph nodes after few days. If you observe these symptoms in one of your family members, consult your doctor immediately. Leptospirosis: A bacterial disease significant in dogs and transferred through contact with infected urine, tissue or blood and water contaminated with infected urine. This leads to severe kidney and liver problems. Salmonellosis: It is a bacterial disease caused by salmonella, which is present in the intestines of animals and transferred through the contamination of water with faeces. It causes diarrhoea, abdominal cramping, dehydration and vomiting in humans. Toxoplasmosis: It is a parasitic disease whose agent is Toxoplasma gondii, which is a protozoan. It is transferred from cats and dogs to people by contact with the faeces of these animals or surfaces contaminated with faeces of a cat or a dog. One should be careful when cleaning the litter box of your pets. Signs of this disease include muscle aches, skin allergies and lymph node swellings around neck. Girdiasis: Giardia is a parasite found in the intestine of animals, particularly dogs and cats, and leads to diarrhoea. Humans can acquire this organism by drinking water contaminated with infected faeces. It causes severe diarrhoea and dysentery, which will result in dehydration and blood loss leading to death if not treated in time. Ringworm: If your pet is living most of the time in a humid environment and you are not cleaning its hair, you must be careful about ringworm infection, a fungal disease infecting the skin of animals and communicable to humans. Immuno-compromised people are more at risk. If the animal is losing hair from most of its body parts take it to your veterinary doctor immediately for proper diagnosis, as it may be very dangerous, especially for children. In humans, it may result in round lesions on skin, intense itching and redness of the area. It can infect your family as well. Rabies: The disease is transferred not only from dogs, but also from cats. The bite of the animal can transfer this virus to human beings. The virus is present in its saliva and can be transferred on coming into contact with it. Be careful when your are cleaning the mouth of your pet and cutting its nails because if your skin breaks even due to a scratch, virus can enter through the broken skin and lead to rabies. Symptoms of this disease in humans are profuse salivation (foaming mouth), anxiety and confusion. Then after a few days, signs of paralysis, muscular spasm, ataxia, in coordination, and hydrophobia will appear. This is a very dangerous disease, which has no treatment once it occurs and results in death. So, vaccinate your pet and yourself against rabies. Some of the precautions to avoid zoonotic diseases are: ? Regular deworming of pets should (first time deworm your pet at the age of 15 days). ? Keep to the vaccination schedule of your pet (first vaccine at 1 to 2 months of age). ? Wash your hands each time you handle a pet. ? Keep your pet and its house area clean. ? Dont allow your pet to go to your cooking area or touch any eatable. ? Immediately contact your veterinarian if the pet exhibits any abnormal behavioural/sign. The writer is a veterinary surgeon.