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Zoonotic disease

Veterinarians play a crucial role in protecting dogs, their families, and the public. Routine testing to screen healthy pets for zoonotic disease or shared disease (e.g., tick-borne illness) may allow early detection in people by acting as a sentinel for family health.61 Attention to local outbreaks of canine disease may be the first indication of a new or emerging infectious agent that could impact humans as well. Immune-compromised individuals within the family unit are at even more risk of zoonotic disease from pets.62 Common zoonotic diseases are described in many texts.63,64 Be aware of diseases that occur in your region, and ask clients about travel that might have exposed their pets to regional diseases from other parts of the country or world. Remain alert to news about changes in geographic distribution of disease as the incidence and prevalence are continually monitored and updated.

A recent study of human ocular toxocariasis cited a total of 68 new cases over a 1 yr period and recommended good hygiene practices, timely disposal of pet feces, and the routine deworming of pets as strategies in prevention.65 Following Companion Animal Parasite Council and CDC guidelines can prevent pet and human health problems.66,67

Ingestion of contaminated food or food products can occur with feeding either commercial or raw foods.68,69 Keep up-to-date with pet food recalls and warnings via the AVMA and FDA websites (Table 4). Dogs being fed or offered raw foods or treats should be precluded from participating in therapy programs for at least 1 mo or longer.70 Dogs should not be fed raw food or treats in households with immune-compromised individuals (e.g., elderly, children under 5 yr of age, diabetic individuals, and those receiving immunosuppressive drugs).74,75

TABLE 4

Useful resources for providing individualized patient care at all life stages

Website Information on Website
American Veterinary Dental College Dental information for veterinarians and pet owners
American Animal Hospital Association Anesthesia guidelines; Dental care guidelines; Nutritional assessment guidelines; Pain management guidelines; Senior care guidelines; Vaccination guidelines; Position on frequency of veterinary visits; and Animal welfare/position on microchipping
American Association of Feline Practitioners Feline life stage guidelines (and many other guidelines for cats)
American College of Veterinary Nutrition List of board-certified veterinary specialists in nutrition who can provide nutritional consultation
American Heartworm Society Prevalence, diagnosis, and treatment of heartworm disease
American Veterinary Medical Association Position statements (microchip, dog bite prevention, animal welfare, travel with animals); and recalls and alerts issued regarding pet and animal feeds
American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior Position statements (e.g., on puppy socialization)
Canine Inherited Disorders Database Disorders by breed/inheritance
CDC Guidelines for veterinarians: prevention of zoonotic transmission of ascarids and hookworms of dogs and cats; and information about ecto and endo-parasites
CAPC Internal parasite guidelines
FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition Regulatory and safety issues, adverse event reporting, meetings, industry information
FDA Pet Food Site Information, links, food safety
issues, recalls, pet food labels,
selecting nutritious foods, handling raw foods
University of Cambridge Inherited diseases in dogs database

AHS, American Heartworm Society; ALP, alkaline phosphatase; ALT, alanine aminotransferase; BUN, blood urea nitrogen; CAPC, Companion Animal Parasite Council; CBC, complete blood count; RBC, red blood cell; TP, total protein.

Recommend safe food handling and good food hygiene habits, including hand washing, cleaning food scoops, and bowls in a sink other than the bathroom or kitchen, and avoiding feeding pets in the kitchen to avoid cross-contamination of pet and human foods. Encourage clients to check and save the packaging of all pet food products, including the date code and product code, in case of food contamination.69