Q. How do I prevent my clients from getting zoonotic infections?
Dwight D. Bowman
The short answer: You can't prevent all infections, says Dwight D. Bowman, MS, PhD, a professor of parasitology with the department
of Microbiology and Immunology at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. "If your client wants to eat sashimi at the local Japanese
restaurant and gets an anisakid nematode or a trematode infection, it's out of your control. But you can educate clients to
lessen their chances of certain types of zoonotic infections."
Here's a short list of steps you can take to help clients reduce their risks:
- Keep dogs and cats free of heartworms, intestinal worms, fleas, and ticks.
- Conduct routine fecal exams, even for animals taking preventives, to help verify pets are infection-free.
- Educate clients about prevention. For example, you'll want to tell clients to wash their hands frequently, especially after
gardening or handling soil, and use a scoop to handle feces or clean the cat box. They can also decrease the risk of infection
by placing pet poop in the trash or incinerating it rather than placing it in a compost. And they can protect their pets by
feeding cooked or canned food, because raw foods can lead to infections from Salmonella or Trichinella. (For more tips to educate clients, visit the Companion Animal Parasite Council Web site at
"A healthy pet will go a long way towards protecting clients," says Dr. Bowman. "If your clients like sushi, you probably
won't talk them out of eating it. But you might be able to keep them from feeding it to their dogs and cats."