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Can My Pet Make Me Sick?
Can having a pet make my children or me sick?
The answer to this question is “yes” and “no”.
There is always the possibility and there are ways to prevent problems.
The best way to make sure that germs and/or bacteria are not spread is to practice good hygiene. Cleanliness seems to be the best prevention of common diseases.
However, one important thing to keep in mind is the current state of one’s health. People with weak immune systems, people with serious illnesses, people with HIV/AIDS, people with organ transplants, people undergoing cancer treatment, and infants and young children are at greater risk of catching a disease from an animal than most others people.
With few exceptions, carelessness in handling a pet along with not washing your hands after cleaning up after a pet are the leading causes of pet-related illness.
What are some of the possible diseases that can be associated with animals? The most feared thing in my mind is rabies.
What is rabies? It is a disease caused by the rabies virus and is transmitted by the bite of an animal that carries the virus. Today most domesticated animals are vaccinated against the rabies virus as mandated by most state laws.
However, a bite from an unknown animal, domestic or wild, until it is known that the animal has been vaccinated, the recipient of the bite should be treated as having the virus.
It can take one to three months for a person to show signs of the virus, and by then it will be too late for any treatment to work.
It is very important that your pet, even if it is just a pet, is vaccinated against the rabies virus.
Teaching children to avoid trying to pet strange dogs or cats unless under supervision, along with avoiding the temptation to pick up a wild animal, is one of the best lessons you can teach your child.
There are many germs/viruses that can be contracted from dogs besides rabies, most of which come from contact with a dog’s feces. That is why cleanliness seems so important. To clean up after your dog eliminates, use plastic gloves, a scooper, or a plastic bag to avoid touching the feces.
A dog can carry many types of germs, bacteria and/or viruses and not be sick, but you can pick them up and suffer. Most illnesses caused by pets usually include diarrhea, vomiting, some fever and muscle aches. As with any illness, see your doctor.
Cats, too, can transmit a disease or two to their humans, but overall you’re very unlikely to get sick from touching or owning a cat.
Cat scratch fever can come from a scratch or bite, but using normal precautions like washing the wound and putting a bandage on it can generally prevent any illness. Symptoms of cat scratch disease may include infection at the site of the injury, swollen lymph nodes, a low fever, and loss of appetite.
Another disease associated with cats is toxoplasmosis, however humans are more likely to contract it from eating raw meat or gardening.
What is toxoplasmosis? It is a disease caused by a parasite, about 60 million people are infected by this bug and don’t know it. You can get it by swallowing cat feces.
Yuk, you say why would anyone do that? In fact, just by touching your mouth, eyes, or nose, you can pass it on to yourself. The symptoms are flu-like. It is particularly dangerous for pregnant women as it can be transmitted to the fetus.
When cleaning the litter box always be careful and avoid handling any faeces. Keep pets away from the litter box, along with children. For some strange reason dogs seem to enjoy looking for treats in the litter box.
What other diseases can be transmitted to humans from pets?
Salmonellosis, which is a bacterial disease caused by the Salmonella bacterium. Most often people get it from contaminated chicken, eggs or other contaminated food. Symptoms can include severe diarrhea, fever, and stomach pain.
Salmonellosis virus can also be transmitted to humans by handling pets such as reptiles (lizards, snakes and turtles), chicks, ducklings and occasionally a cat or dog.
Again it comes from touching animal feces and not washing your hands after doing so. Some animals may have it on their bodies as they have picked it up from the ground.
Water can also be a point of contamination, where animals have access to it and because of soil runoff, feces and urine can flow into the water, people need to be careful.
Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that affects humans and animals.
How can you get it?
With exposure to many things, as the bacteria are excreted through the urine of infected animals. It can be found in water, (lakes and streams) food or soil containing urine from infected animals. Ingestion of water (swimming in a lake or stream,) contaminated food, or with hands that have come into contact with a source and rubbed your eyes, nose, or mouth, or through a cut in your skin.
Symptoms include high fever, severe headache, muscle aches, vomiting, diarrhea or rash. Seek medical attention as soon as possible, especially if you have been swimming in the “old swimming hole”.
Leptospirosis is found worldwide, but mainly in temperate and tropical climates. Pets can get it when they drink from a contaminated bird bath.
Ticks carry disease, and ticks bite dogs, so the rule of thumb here is, when removing ticks from your pet, be extremely careful. Your chances of contracting either Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever are slim to none unless you travel to areas of the country where these ticks are prevalent and don’t wear protective clothing.
Fleas can cause tapeworm in pets. Animals get it by ingesting an infected flea.
You can get the tape on, sure, but only if you ingest it and infect fleas. Keeping your pet and household fleas at bay will prevent infestation. Last but not least in this list of things is ringworm, this is a skin and scalp disease that can be contracted not only by animals but also by humans.
How can you get ringworm?
Ringworm is a contagious fungus that can be spread from person to person, pet to person, or pet to pet.
It has nothing to do with worms, but is a fungus that lives on humans, pets and rarely in the soil. Ringworm appears as a flat round patch on the skin and then adjusts to a ring-like patch. It can be treated with an antifungal medication usually taken by mouth in tablet form or an ointment applied to the affected area.
The important thing here is not to share personal items with an infected person, not to touch infected areas, keep children away from infected pets, and thoroughly wash any items handled by the infected pet or person.
Now that I’ve made you wonder if I’ll ever get a pet, the answer is yes of course.
Simple old common sense hygiene is the answer to most pet illnesses. I have never heard of a person dying from a disease contracted from a cat or dog. Except maybe someone gets bitten by a rabid animal and doesn’t seek treatment.
Keeping children’s play areas clear of your pet’s bathroom and keeping poop clean is the safest thing you can do.
Teach your kids to wash their hands often after playing with their pet and you’re on your way to a long and happy life
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