January 29, 2009

Dog owners more likely to spread germs

Dog owners are more likely to share germs with pets by not washing hands than by sleeping with their pet, a U.S. researcher says.

Dr. Kate Stenske of Kansas State University's College of Veterinary Medicine says surveys show nearly half of all dog owners share food with their dogs, and more than half allow the dog to sleep in the bed and lick them on the face.

The study examined fecal samples from dogs and their owners and looked at the bacteria's DNA fingerprints. Stenske finds that 10 percent of dog-human pairs shared the same E. coli strains. She said the E. coli had more resistance to common antibiotics than expected, although the owners had more multiple-drug resistant strains than their pets.

This make us think that dogs are not likely to spread multiple drug-resistant E. coli to their owners, but perhaps owners may spread them to their dogs, Stenske says in a statement.

The research, scheduled to be published in the American Journal of Veterinary Research, showed that bonding behaviors like sharing the bed or allowing licks on the face had no association to an increase in shared E. coli. However, the research did show an association between antibiotic-resistant E. coli and owners who didn't wash their hands after petting their dogs or before cooking meals.

We should use common sense and practice good general hygiene, Stenske says.