Dogs and cats are domestic animals that have maintained unique relationships with people and have been raised and kept for various reasons, but mainly for companionship.
The proximity of dogs and cats to humans provides their parasites the opportunity to cross the species barrier and infect humans.
For example, toxocariasis ranks among the most common zoonotic infections worldwide.
Despite their serious impact on human society, the risk posed by these parasites remains relatively unknown to the public.
This fact should not be overlooked, and pet owners need to be informed about the zoonotic risks caused by companion animals’ parasites.
It is becoming increasingly important to ensure that our pets are routinely wormed every three months to reduce the risk to humans, particularly children when they become infected and possibly contract severe eye disease with subsequent blindness.
We now have a very dangerous lungworm disease in dogs which requires special worming procedures to keep it at bay.
The potential detrimental effect of parasites of dogs and cats on human health has pushed some countries to take harsh measures to protect human health.
For example, since the 1940s, dogs have been banned from Iceland as a measure to prevent human cystic echinococcosis.
However, it is unfair to look at dogs and cats only as a source of trouble.
In fact, the positive effect of pets on socially deprived vulnerable people has been well-recognised for many years.
For this and other reasons, dogs and cats will closely coexist with the human population and so will the risks from their parasites.
Therefore, we should look at the health of humans and companion animals as ‘one health’ and promote practices that benefit humans, companion animals and the environment.
Veterinary and medical aspects of dog and cat parasite control must be linked at all levels, thereby promoting and facilitating communication, cooperation and collaboration across sectors and disciplines.