Are cats more hygienic than dogs

Pet infection - Caution: risk of infection: do pets make you sick?

A dog keeps you fit just because of walking, a cat caresses the soul. For many people, pets are even full members of the family: Sometimes the dog sits on the sofa with them, or the cat sleeps in bed with them. However, especially small children and people with weakened immune systems should not overdo it when cuddling with their housemates in order to avoid any health risks.

On Friday, February 2nd, experts from science and authorities will discuss possible health dangers that pets can pose at the conference “Do our pets make us sick?” At the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover (TiHo). These can be dangers from animal bites as well as allergies or infections transmitted by animals, so-called zoonoses.

Maximilian Reuschel provided information at the conference about zoonoses passed on by rodents. According to the TiHo scientist, serious clinical pictures are not to be expected when keeping guinea pigs and other animals. At most, a rabbit cold can be transmitted. Hamsters are often infested with tropical rat mites. Their bites could cause light, reddish pustules in humans. "The risk of zoonosis is significantly higher in wild animals," emphasizes Reuschel. For example, hedgehogs could transmit skin fungus. In the United States, raccoon roundworms were found in children who had played in the sandpit.

Although there is a reporting system for infectious diseases in Germany, the source is not always discovered. It usually remains unclear whether a patient was infected from another person, an animal or through food, says Hendrik Wilking, who researches zoonoses at the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) in Berlin and advises institutions. In Germany, the pathogen Toxoplasma gondii is probably the most dangerous in connection with pets, says veterinarian Wilking. In people whose immune system is weakened, such an infection can take on very severe forms.

The cat is the host of this parasite. Humans can get infected directly from cats or when they eat meat contaminated with the pathogen. A new disease with Toxoplasma gondii is also problematic during pregnancy. According to an RKI study, slightly more than 4,000 pregnant women go through toxoplasmosis every year, and over 300 newborns are born with clinical symptoms of the disease. "This includes damage in the neurological area," says Wilking. “Pregnant women should ensure that cats are hygienic.” In addition, according to another RKI study, cats increase the risk of borreliosis more than dogs. "The cats pick up the ticks outside; they are transmitted when they cuddle, for example."

Should we now abolish pets because of the risk of infection? “Absolutely not,” emphasizes the expert. Research has shown the health benefits for the owners. According to this, pet owners have a higher level of life satisfaction, they exercise more, and they also have more social contacts.

Humans have lived with dogs and cats for thousands of years, while exotic reptiles have only become more popular in the past few decades. In the course of this, according to the RKI, salmonella infections in babies and small children have increased because the majority of snakes, geckos and bearded dragons excrete the pathogen. It triggers severe diarrheal diseases. The Berlin veterinarian Frank Mutschmann, who specializes in reptiles, says: "Reptiles should not be kept in the nursery, not in the bathroom and especially not in the kitchen." It is also important to buy the animals from reputable dealers.

From Christina Sticht