Petting a sickness: How disease-free are UAE's cats and dogs?

Dubai Municipality veterinary expert on staying free of 'zoonoses'

Cats and dogs are able to transmit numerous diseases to humans. Are we at risk?

Can cats and dogs pass on disease to us? Yes, answers the vet, and he rolls out a list of some possible animal-transmitted diseases, or zoonoses as they are called. Quite a lot of them can be passed on by cats and dogs.

But, it rarely ever happens. In the UAE there are no examples of diseases that have been transmitted from either animal, confirms veterinary expert of Dubai Municipality Dr. Hisham Ahmad Fahmi.

However, that does not mean that we can lean back and feel comfortable around our pets. “Good care is very important,” he emphasizes.


One of the most commonly known diseases is rabies. Rabies is a virus that is nested in saliva and can be transmitted by a bite of both cats and dogs. Rabies virus affects the central nervous system and is almost always fatal.

Because of the fatal consequences pre-cautious efforts have received a lot of attention, explains Dr. Hisham. “Every cat and dog needs to be vaccinated against rabies and registered. There is currently no prevalence of rabies in the UAE.”

When a person gets bitten by an infected cat or dog, this will be marked by “a strong sense of thirst in the infected person with which he cannot drink water because of the severe pain in the throat. Then, the tongue becomes lolled and the salvia drips in the form of froth from the mouth. When the state exaggerates, paralysis prevails in all areas of the body causing the death of the patient,” informs the Veterinary Department of Dubai Municipality.


A much discussed disease is toxoplasma, a parasitic disease that can cause embryological malformation or abortion of the embryo in infected women, warns Dubai Municipality.

The toxoplasma virus is primarily hosted by cats, and can be transmitted through contact with the feaces of an infected cat.  Direct contact with an infected cat is likely to be a channel for transmission.

Although serious illness from the disease is rare, severe cases have been reported to lead to inflammation of the central nervous system, eyes or liver. There are no known cases of toxoplasma in the UAE, says Dr. Hisham.

Cat scratch disease

A human can be affected by this disease by a simple cat scratch. The infectious disease is caused by the Bartonella bacterium, but is described as a benign infection. It is often marked by tender and swollen regional lymph nodes and there may be a papule at the site of initial infection. It may cause fever, or sometimes headache, chills, backache and abdominal pain.

The list of transmissable diseases does not stop here. But it would be said too much that we have to be afraid of our pets, finds Dr. Hisham. “It is important that anybody who wants to purchase a pet does so in the right place, where hygiene is maintained.

“Once the pet is purchased, regular vet visits –every three months- are necessary, and a healthy environment and food should be provided. All pets must be vaccinated and registered,” he concludes.




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