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FORGET bird flu or swine flu, the next new killer disease could come from the household dog or cat. Leading British-based Australian veterinary professor Michael Day has called for a global system to be formed to monitor infectious diseases of companion dogs and cats. However he implored pet owners not to be discouraged from keeping a cat or a dog. "One thing we do not want to do is any kind of scaremongering and the message that is absolutely key and right up front in this paper is how important dogs and cats are," he said.
"The benefits of having cats and dogs far outweigh the risks." With the majority of major new diseases facing mankind expected to have an animal origin, Day said it was time for people to think more closely about the health of their pets. "What we know about flu viruses is that they mutate all the time and potentially they can mutate in dogs and cats; it is theoretically possible for a new strain of flu to emerge out of a dog or a cat as it has out of a bird or a pig," he said. Day, who is based at England's University of Bristol, led a study into key infectious diseases that may be transmitted between dogs and cats and man.
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