Professor Michael Day of the School of Veterinary Sciences in Bristol, UK, is the lead author in an article that recommends global monitoring of diseases in dogs and cats. While it is known that many human diseases originate in animals, only diseases in livestock are currently monitored.
Professor Day makes the case that because cats and dogs are integrated into our lives and share our households, the potential for introduction of new zoonotic diseases exists. He says:
‘The number of small companion animals is significant. For example there are an estimated eight to ten million dogs living in up to 31 per cent of UK homes and in the USA, 72 million dogs in 37 per cent of homes.
In developed countries the relationship between man and dogs and cats has deepened, with these animals now closely sharing the human indoor environment. The benefits of pet ownership on human health, well-being and development are unquestionable, but as dogs and cats have moved from the barn, to the house, to the bedroom, the potential for disease spread to humans increases.’
Any new monitoring system will require resources and funding and the political will to see it established. At a time when the global economy is struggling, one can be skeptical about whether there is a chance of seeing this recommendation become a reality.
You can read the article in the Emerging Infections Diseases journal here.