How can touching mice make you sick?

Sick from pets : Who cares?

Cowpox is tricky. Ten days after infection, flu-like symptoms appear in humans, and circular, coin-sized pustules form on the skin. They cannot be treated with medication, take five to eight weeks to clear and leave scars. The name is deceptive, because today cowpox is no longer transmitted by cows, but by cats and pet rats, a touch is enough.

Many symptoms are not recognized at all

Diseases with which pets infect their owners are called "zoonoses". There are around 200 different symptoms, many of which have significantly less noticeable symptoms than cowpox - and are often not recognized at all, also because medical practitioners hardly ever interview their patients about their animal husbandry habits before making a diagnosis. Anyone who has ever complained to their family doctor about sore eyes, aching limbs or fever, for example, will know for themselves: The question of whether you happen to have a parrot or a budgie at home is definitely not a question. This could be psittacosis, the so-called parrot disease. Caused by the pathogen Chlamydophila psittaci, transmitted through feces or other secretions. The animal itself does not have to show any signs of illness.

"It is understandable that this is why there are no reliable statistics on the frequency of such transmissions," says Nils Kley from the Federal Research Institute for Animal Health in Greifswald. He is involved in the National Research Platform for Zoonoses and recently exchanged ideas with colleagues in Leipzig in a workshop about the communicable diseases of German pets. “We don't want to spread panic,” says Kley. There is certainly no risk of an epidemic. But there is a need for clarification.

Snakes carry salmonella

It is certain that without exception every type of pet can transmit diseases to humans, even the fish in the aquarium. The bacterium Aeromonas hydrophila, for example, can, if it gets into the human body, cause diarrhea or gastrointestinal flu. Guinea pigs can transmit fungi, rats and colored mice transmit the tropical rat mite. Unlike cowpox, symptoms are easy to treat.

Most snakes and other reptiles that you buy from breeders or pet stores carry salmonella - and will shed it for life.

Some scientists therefore advise that at least children under the age of five should be strictly kept away from reptiles. Others consider this to be an exaggeration. The main thing is to wash your hands after every contact - and under no circumstances let the animals run around freely because they will then spread their bacteria throughout the apartment. This is precisely the reason why, according to experts, the zoonosis problem in Germany will increase rather than decrease: the closer people let their pets get to them, the more everyday they share with them and the more they see their animal as a family member, the higher will inevitably risk transmission.

Almost every third dog is allowed to sleep in bed

The European comparison of nations is also not very encouraging, in which, as is so often the case, Germany is way ahead. Compared to the French, British and Dutch, Germans are the most likely to let their pets in bed to cuddle. Almost 33 percent of dogs and more than 46 percent of cats are allowed to sleep on their owner's mattress. Only the Americans still love animals. The "New York Times" has also dealt with the question of where pets can stay overnight. And comes to the conclusion: Letting sleep in bed is definitely not as bad as licking one's own wounds with a dog's tongues. Even German scientists can only agree with this.

Animals for allergy sufferers

Contrary to what is often assumed, it is not the animal hair itself that provokes allergic reactions, but protein molecules that are contained in the animal's excretions, in saliva, urine or sebum. These substances often stick to the hair. If they get into the human body through inhalation or through the eyes, this triggers counter-reactions of the immune system in those affected: reddening of the skin and swelling, hives, sneezing, conjunctivitis, increased mucus production, narrowing of the airways up to hay fever and asthma. Allergies are hereditary.

Around ten percent of Germans have an allergic reaction to animals. The fact that dog hair allergy is the main topic of discussion in public is due to the animal's popularity. Statistically speaking, people are more likely to be allergic to cats, rabbits or guinea pigs - and often only to a few, specific species in dogs. Excretions from birds, rats, mice and horses can also irritate the immune system.

Both the use of acute drugs such as antihistamines and desensitization are possible. Whether the allergic reaction disappears or just less sot can be is different. The most effective form of symptom control is still to consistently keep your distance.

The Portuguese water dog hardly sheds any hair

The rumor persists that today there are special dog breeds that cannot cause allergies in principle. This is wrong. In fact, there are breeds that are better for allergy sufferers

are suitable because they lose little or hardly any hair: These include the Labradoodle (cross between Labrador and standard poodle), the Goldendoodle (golden retriever plus standard poodle) and the Portuguese water dog. The German Rex breed is popular with cats. The Bengal cat breed is also considered suitable for allergy sufferers.

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