Our pets are very much an important part of our families, and they can be just as germy as their human counterparts.
When a disease spreads from our pets to us, we call this zoonotic disease. Here are a few most common pet-to-person concerns and some tips on how you can minimize your risks.
Reptiles and amphibians often carry salmonella in their digestive systems and feces, but if you feed your dog or cat a raw diet, these furry friends can carry salmonella too. In the case of exotic pets, regularly washing and sanitizing their habitats, keeping them away from food prep, consumption, and storage areas, and washing your hands after handling them should keep your risk to a minimum. With your furry pets, staying away from raw diets is best, but if you insist on feeding one, sanitizing their feeding dishes and collecting all their stools, and disposing of them on a daily basis can minimize your exposure. If you have children under 5, elderly people, or an immune-compromised individual in your household, the CDC recommends that they do not handle these exotic pets. In the same vein, you should not feed your pets raw diets if those individuals reside in your home to prevent salmonella spread from your dog or cat to your toddler and your grandma.
Cat Scratch Fever
This disease is caused by the Bartonella henselae bacteria. Cats and kittens get the bacteria from infected fleas and then pass it on to us through bites or scratches. Cat scratch disease, which shows up as swollen glands near the scratch or bite and flu-like symptoms, is generally not serious, but may occasionally need treatment from your human physician. To be safe, keep your cats indoors and treat them with flea preventative to limit their exposure to this bacterium.
Roundworms and hookworms can transfer from your cat or dog to your through their feces. They can travel from your intestinal tract through your tissues causing visual, neurological, and other tissue damage. They can cause symptoms ranging from digestive distress to coughing, rashes, and fatigue. You should bring all new pets to visit the vet so that they can be checked for these parasites and be properly dewormed. Before they are seen, you should dispose of all their stools promptly (walk your yard at least twice per day, if you can pick up the feces right away). For cats, scoop litter daily. If you have an outdoor sandbox, make sure to cover it when it’s not in use, so your neighborhood kitties don’t use it as their litter box. Then as you enjoy the years with your pet, make sure to keep current on your heartworm preventatives, which generally prevent intestinal parasites as well, and have them checked for parasites as recommended by your vet, usually at least once per year.