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Year : 2020  |  Volume : 45  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 89-91

Prevalence of pet dog ownership in an urban colony of East Delhi and awareness regarding canine zoonotic diseases and responsible pet ownership among dog owners

1 Department of Community Medicine, Sree Narayana Institute of Medical Sciences, Ernakulam, Kerala, India
2 Department of Community Medicine, DY Patil School of Medicine, Navi Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
3 Department of Community Medicine, University College of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, India

Date of Submission10-Jul-2019
Date of Acceptance02-Dec-2019
Date of Web Publication14-Jan-2020

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Amir Maroof Khan
Department of Community Medicine, University College of Medical Sciences and GTB Hospital, New Delhi
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ijcm.IJCM_281_19

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Background: India has lowly prioritized pet-associated zoonosis as a public health priority because data regarding the same and the susceptible population involved are sparse. Objective: To find the proportion of pet dog ownership in a settled urban colony of East Delhi and to assess awareness regarding canine zoonotic diseases and responsible pet ownership. Methods: This was a cross-sectional descriptive study of 700 participants in an urban colony of East Delhi. Results: The proportion of pet dog owners was 5.4%. Only one-third (34.2%) of the respondents were aware that pets are a source of disease. A majority of pet owners (86.8%) identified rabies as a disease caused by the bite of only stray dogs. The proportion of responsible pet owners was 39.4%. Only one-tenth of surveyed households had registered their pet with the local municipal authorities, despite such registration being a compulsory requirement by law. Conclusion: This study provides us with a better understanding of the lacunae in awareness of zoonotic diseases and its preventive measures among pet owners. All pet owners have a responsibility to ensure that their pets are healthy and free from disease.

Keywords: Awareness, canine, pet ownership, zoonoses

How to cite this article:
Cherian V, Dugg P, Khan AM. Prevalence of pet dog ownership in an urban colony of East Delhi and awareness regarding canine zoonotic diseases and responsible pet ownership among dog owners. Indian J Community Med 2020;45:89-91

How to cite this URL:
Cherian V, Dugg P, Khan AM. Prevalence of pet dog ownership in an urban colony of East Delhi and awareness regarding canine zoonotic diseases and responsible pet ownership among dog owners. Indian J Community Med [serial online] 2020 [cited 2021 Jan 24];45:89-91. Available from: https://www.ijcm.org.in/text.asp?2020/45/1/89/275967

   Introduction Top

India is home to approximately 28 million pet dogs.[1] These animals may precipitate zoonotic diseases in their owners unless adequate protective measures are undertaken.[2]

Pet dog-associated zoonosis is a well-studied phenomenon in developed countries but has not received its due importance in India, owing to a dearth of data regarding the same.[3] Reflective of this, there are only 913 registered pet dogs in the Delhi municipality, which is an enormous underestimation.[4],[5]

The aim of our study was to assess the prevalence of pet dog ownership in an urban colony in East Delhi and to determine the level of awareness regarding canine zoonotic diseases and responsible pet ownership among dog owners.


This cross-sectional, descriptive study was conducted in Dilshad Garden from August 2017 to March 2018. The prevalence of pet ownership was specified as 8.5% in accordance with a previous study conducted in Andhra Pradesh.[6] Keeping absolute precision at 3% and a design effect of 2, the final sample size obtained was 700.

Data collection

Dilshad Garden comprises lower-, middle-, and higher-income group blocks. Three middle-income group clusters were chosen purposively for the study. A cluster sampling technique was applied, with each building considered as a cluster. Population proportionate to size sampling was done. For every alternate building, consecutive houses were selected to complete the required sample size.

A semi open-ended, prevalidated, and pretested questionnaire was designed to collect sociodemographic details, data regarding awareness about zoonotic diseases, and knowledge of relevant preventive measures. An additional section was included to assess responsible pet ownership.

Awareness of zoonotic diseases and its preventive measures among pet owners was elicited using a questionnaire adapted from available literature, for which the maximum score is 15.[7],[8] A score of nine or greater was considered satisfactory awareness regarding canine zoonotic diseases.

Review of literature and consultation with two qualified veterinarians were undertaken to reach a consensus on what entails responsible pet ownership. Ten criteria were selected to evaluate the same. Each of these criteria was given a score of one if fulfilled, bringing the maximum score to ten. If a score ≥7 was obtained, the household was determined to have responsible dog ownership.[8],[9]

Data analysis

Data were entered into MS Excel database, exported, and analyzed using SPSS Version 20.0 (Armonk, NY: IBM Corp).

Ethical clearance

Approval from the Institutional Ethics Committee was obtained before conducting the study.

   Results Top

Prevalence of pet ownership and sociodemographic characteristics

Of the 700 households surveyed, proportion of pet dog owners in Dilshad Garden was 5.4%(38). Three households (8.8%) had under-five children, and eight households (23.5%) had school-going children. A geriatric family member was present in six (17.6%) households and one household (2.9%) had a member who was immunocompromised due to a chronic disease condition.

Age of the pet dog varied from 3 months to 11 years (mean 4.4 years). The most common purpose for keeping a dog was found to be companionship in 23 (60.5%) households. Keeping a dog primarily for the purpose of security was only seen in 1 (2.6%) household. Seven (18.4%) of the households kept dogs for both companionship and security. Seven (18.4%) households had got their pet dogs as gifts from others.

Awareness of zoonoses

One-third of respondents were aware that pets are a source of disease. The majority of pet owners (86.8%) had awareness regarding rabies but attributed it to the bite of only stray dogs. Only 15.7% had awareness regarding intestinal worms (toxocariasis), and 7.9% wrongly identified fungal infection ringworm as a zoonotic disease. Incorrect response of allergies toward dogs' fur as a zoonotic disease was noted in 5.3% of households. 5.3% of the respondents were unable to point out a single preventive measure whereas the remaining mentioned only vaccination.

More than three quarters (78.9%) of respondents were ignorant regarding correct practices of disposal of fecal material. 71% of pet owners were noted to wash their hands after handling their pet, but the role of hand washing as a protective factor against zoonotic diseases was recognized by only 40% of them. Most pet-related diseases could be eliminated by simple sanitary measures such as hand hygiene, and awareness regarding the same should be propagated to break the chain of transmission.[4],[10],[11]

Majority of households (76.3%) received their information about zoonotic diseases from Internet sources. Information from licensed veterinarians was received by only 26.3% of owners.

Responsible pet ownership

39.4% of the respondents were responsible pet owners. Only one in ten households had registered their pet with the local municipal authorities, despite such registration being a compulsory requirement by law.[12] Annual rabies vaccine was given in 63.1% of households. Adequate fecal disposal was seen in only 18.4% of households. Only 1 (2.6%) household had their pet neutered. Only half (57.8%) of all pet owners were observed to have subjected their pets to regular deworming and de-fleaing every 6 months [Table 1].
Table 1: Good pet dog management practices for responsible pet ownership (n=38)

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   Discussion Top

Our study is the first of its kind in India to use an operational definition of “pet” dog. The proportion of pet dog owners in our study was found to be low (5.4%). A study by Babu et al. reported a similar prevalence of pet dog ownership in Proddatur, Andhra Pradesh.[6] In contrast, the proportion of pet dog owners is much higher in western countries, estimated to be 33% in Italy and 38% in the United States of America.[13],[14],[15],[16]

A study carried out in Georgia observed that 63% pet owners were aware that pets could be a carrier of diseases transmissible to people, whereas this figure was only 33% in our study.[17] Most pet owners had scant knowledge regarding canine zoonotic diseases barring rabies, which is comparable to other Indian studies.[6],[8],[10] The role of simple preventive behaviors at home was also noted to be largely unrecognized.

Human infection with parasites from pets commonly occurs due to contact with infected pet feces. Correct disposal of the pet's feces is vital in preventing these diseases. In our study, 4 in 5 pet owners admitted to leaving their pets' feces on the road without cleaning up after them.[14],[15],[16]

Our findings about the limited role of veterinarians in dispensing precautionary advice was similar to a study conducted in Zimbabwe where only 33% of owners quoted their veterinarians to be a primary source of information regarding zoonotic diseases.[18]

Responsible pet owners can reduce the risk of transmission of zoonotic diseases. In our study, only 13.1% of the respondents had registered their pet dogs with the municipality. Information regarding the importance of registration should be made known to all pet owners, so as to facilitate better surveillance by public health agencies for the prevention and control of zoonotic diseases.

Rabies is endemic in India, with a majority of casualties attributed to the bite of a rabid dog.[1] We noted that only 65.7% of the respondents had taken their pet for a rabies vaccination in the previous year. Vaccinating a pet provides protection to the owner, the family, the community, and the pet and needs to be further emphasized.[19]

We believe that it is due to ignorance that responsible pet ownership was low in our study area. Having pets on leash at all times when outside, preventing pets from soiling public places, spaying/neutering, social training, and regular exercise keep these domesticated animals healthy and are all part of promoting responsible pet ownership.


Pet dog ownership is abysmally low in India compared to western and partly, the reason why canine-related zoonosis has never received due importance in framing public health legislature. Our findings would provide the necessary impetus for future studies in other metropolitan cities and villages across the country. The findings may therefore be generalized in the background of India having one of the lowest rates of pet dog ownership worldwide.

   Conclusion Top

This study provides us with a better understanding of the extent of pet ownership in an Indian metropolis and the lacunae in awareness regarding zoonotic diseases and its preventive measures. Apart from rabies, most pet owners were not adequately informed about the less fatal but more common pathogens that could affect their pets. Veterinarians should play an integral role in disseminating information to their clients about potential zoonotic diseases and the relevant preventive measures to be taken. This would go a long way toward protecting both pet and human populations. All pet owners have a responsibility to ensure that their pets are healthy and free from disease and to prevent transmission of diseases from pets to susceptible humans.


We want to thank Dr. Joel Philip for his valuable feedback in editing of the manuscript.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

   References Top

Sudarshan M. Assessing burden of rabies in India: WHO sponsored national multicentric rabies survey, 2003. Indian J Community Med 2005;30:100.  Back to cited text no. 1
  [Full text]  
American Veterinary Medical Association. Guidelines for Responsible Pet Ownership. American Veterinary Medical Association; 2017. Available from: https://www.avma.org/KB/Policies/Pages/Guidelines- for-Responsible-Pet-Ownership.aspx. [Last accessed on 2019 Mar 01].  Back to cited text no. 2
Stull JW, Brophy J, Weese JS. Reducing the risk of pet-associated zoonotic infections. CMAJ 2015;187:736-43.  Back to cited text no. 3
Singh P. Only 900 Registered Pet Dogs in Delhi. New Delhi: Times of India; 9 June, 2017. Available from: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/only-900-registered-petdogs-in-delhi/articleshow/59059617.cms. [Last accessed on 2019 Apr 01].  Back to cited text no. 4
Traub RJ, Robertson ID, Irwin PJ, Mencke N, Thompson RC. Canine gastrointestinal parasitic zoonoses in India. Trends Parasitol 2005;21:42-8.  Back to cited text no. 5
Babu AJ, Ramya P, Rao LV, Swetha C, Sudhanthiramani S, Rao KV. A study on the awareness and knowledge of zoonotic diseases among the public in and around Proddatur, YSR Kadapa District, Andhra Pradhesh, India. Int J Recent Sci Res 2015;6:5131-8. Available from: http://www.recentscientific.com/sites/default/files/2918.pdf. [Last accessed on 2019 Apr 01].  Back to cited text no. 6
Rabinowitz PM, Gordon Z, Odofin L. Pet-related infections. Am Fam Physician 2007;76:1314-22.  Back to cited text no. 7
Bhattacharjee K, Sarmah P. Prevalence of haemoparasites in pet, working and stray dogs of Assam and North-East India: A hospital based study. Vet World 2013;6:874-8.  Back to cited text no. 8
Irvin J, Selby L. A survey of attitudes toward responsible pet ownership. Public Health Reports 1979;94:380-6. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1431776. [Last accessed on 2019 Apr 01].  Back to cited text no. 9
Sahu S, Samanta S, Sudhakar NR, Raina OK, Gupta SC, Maurya PS, et al. Prevalence of canine toxocariasis in Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh, India. J Parasit Dis 2014;38:111-5.  Back to cited text no. 10
O'Neil J. Zoonotic infections from common household pets. J Nurse Pract 2018;14:363-70.  Back to cited text no. 11
Mishra S. Soon, Online Registration of Pet Dogs Must in South Delhi Municipal Corporation. New Delhi: Indian Express; 15 April, 2018. Available from: http://www.newindianexpress.com/thesundaystandard/2018/apr/15/soon-online-registration-of-pet-dogs-must-in-south-delhi- municipalcorporation-1801640.html. [Last accessed on 2019 Apr 01].  Back to cited text no. 12
Morrison G. Zoonotic infections from pets. Understanding the risks and treatment. Postgrad Med 2001;110:24-6, 29-30, 35-6 passim.  Back to cited text no. 13
American Veterinary Medicine Association. U.S Pet Ownership and Demographics Sourcebook 2018. American Veterinary Medicine Association; 2017-2018. Available from: https://www.avma.org/News/JAVMANews/Pages/190115a.aspx. [Last accessed on 2019 Apr 02].  Back to cited text no. 14
Slater MR, Di Nardo A, Pediconi O, Villa PD, Candeloro L, Alessandrini B, et al. Cat and dog ownership and management patterns in central Italy. Prev Vet Med 2008;85:267-94.  Back to cited text no. 15
Downes M, Canty MJ, More SJ. Demography of the pet dog and cat population on the Island of Ireland and human factors influencing pet ownership. Prev Vet Med 2009;92:140-9.  Back to cited text no. 16
Fontaine R, Schantz P. Pet ownership and knowledge of zoonotic diseases in DeKalb County, Georgia. Anthrozoös 1989;3:45-9.  Back to cited text no. 17
Pfukenyi DM, Chipunga SL, Dinginya L, Matenga E. A survey of pet ownership, awareness and public knowledge of pet zoonoses with particular reference to roundworms and hookworms in Harare, Zimbabwe. Trop Anim Health Prod 2010;42:247-52.  Back to cited text no. 18
McBride D. Reducing the risk of pet-related infections to children. J Pediatr Nurs 2016;31:107-8.  Back to cited text no. 19


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