Pet ownership may lessen depression and loneliness, but animal contact may pose a risk for HIV/AIDS patients. Zoonoses of concern for HIV-positive patients include Bartonella spp, Bordetella bronchiseptica, Campylobacter spp, Cryptococcus spp, Cryptosporidium spp, dermatophytes, Giardia spp, Listeria monocytogenes, Mycobacterium spp, Rhodococcus equi, Salmonella spp, and Toxoplasma gondii. Public health responsibilities of veterinarians include disease surveillance, zoonotic disease reduction, and community health education.

In this study with veterinarians and physicians in Tennessee, half of the 181 veterinarians encountered zoonotic diseases in their patient population at least several times per month. Veterinarians were significantly more likely than physicians to indicate that veterinarians should be advising clients with HIV about zoonotic risks. A high percentage (71.3%) of the 201 physicians who had treated HIV-positive patients had never or almost never asked patients if they owned or had contact with animals. Results suggested that veterinarians play a primary role in educating clients on zoonotic risks, especially in households with immunocompromised individuals. Several implications that may reduce zoonotic risks were identified: increased communication between veterinarians and physicians, increased communication between HIV/AIDS patients and healthcare providers, increased availability of education materials, and increased participation in zoonoses education by healthcare providers.

Although the overall risk for zoonotic transmission from pets to HIV/AIDS patients is low, this study emphasized the veterinarian as the most informed source of client education on animal-transmitted diseases. Although promoting antiparasiticides and performing routine wellness checks can become tedious, the importance of increased communication and availability of educational materials can help healthcare delivery to immunocompromised individuals.—Heather Troyer, DVM, DABVP, CVA

A survey of Tennessee veterinarian and physician attitudes, knowledge, and practices regarding zoonoses prevention among animal owners with HIV infection or AIDS. Hill WA, Petty GC, Erwin PC, Souza MJ. JAVMA 240:1432-1440, 2012.

This is a part of the One Health Initiative.