Pet owners need to ensure that pets are protected from parasites for the wellbeing of both animals and humans.
SO, you’ve just acquired a pet. Welcome to the club.
Having a pet is a huge responsibility. It goes without saying that keeping your pet healthy and well cared for is crucial, not just for the animal but also for the wellbeing of your own family.
Today, cats and dogs are increasingly considered as part of the family and live in close proximity with people.
This means that effectively protecting our pets from parasites not only helps keep them healthy but it also benefits us ultimately when it comes to our health and that of the family, says associate professor Rebecca Traub, director and executive secretary of the Tropical Council for Companion Animal Parasites (TroCCAP).
TroCCAP is a non-for-profit public company whose mission is to independently inform, guide and make best-practice recommendations to veterinarians and allied health professionals for the diagnosis, treatment and control of companion animal parasites in the tropics and sub-tropics.
Speaking during a media roundtable on “Healthy Pets, Healthy People” recently, Traub stressed that pet owners can play an active role in protecting their pets from diseases.
This is done by keeping up with their annual check-ups with the veterinarian, staying up-to-date with vaccinations, and ensuring that they use effective and frequent protection against common parasites such as fleas, ticks and worms.
Dr Tawin Inpankaew, council member of TroCCAP, adds that zoonotic diseases can pose a risk to public health in many parts of the world.
Zoonosis is any disease or infection that is naturally transmissible from vertebrate animals to humans.
“For tropical countries, the combination of warmer climates and enhanced parasite life cycles, among other factors, call for specifically developed parasite prevention protocols in order to effectively mitigate the infection pressure for all animals and the corresponding risk to public health,” says Dr Tawin.
For example, dogs and cats in the tropics need to be protected from ticks, fleas and heartworm all year round, unlike in temperate countries where the risk of infestation is seasonal.
Animals thus play an essential role in zoonotic infections in nature. Zoonoses have been recognised for many centuries, and over 200 have been described. They are caused by all types of pathogenic agents, including bacteria, parasites, fungi, and viruses.
ANIMAL LOVERS ON THE RISE
PET ownership in tropical countries (Southeast Asia, the Pacific Islands, Northern Australia, South Asia (including India), Latin America and Africa and the Middle East) is on the rise.
China, for example, is third in the world for dog ownership (27.4 million) and second for cat ownership (53.1million), while dog numbers in Australia went up to 4.8 million in 2016 (a lift of just under three per cent in three years) and cat numbers increased to almost 3.8 million (up six per cent)
In Malaysia and Vietnam, dog populations have increased by seven per cent and nine per cent respectively while the cat population is up by two per cent and five per cent in the past five years alone.
With the growing pet population, TroCCAP is calling for improved protection of pets from parasites such as fleas, ticks and worms, as key to mitigating the risk of zoonotic diseases, in the interest of veterinary and public health.
While some countries and regions have introduced guidelines for immunisation of dogs and cats, there are unique challenges faced by companion animal practitioners across the tropics, including those in Asia who cite insufficient resources for research, training and diagnosis to be a challenge.