Could Your Pet Make Your Family Sick?

????????If happiness is a warm cat (or a loving, energetic pup — we’ll leave the cat vs. dog debate for another day), can it be possible that our pets’ sweet acts of affection can also make us sick?

According to the experts, yes! Your pet can transmit diseases to you and your family and cause a host of other health woes. But before you decide to ban Fluffy to the outdoors forever, here are the health concerns you really need to know about – and how to keep them at bay.

1. Salmonella

This bacterial disease can be caught by touching your pet’s poop or contaminated pet food. “Last year, an outbreak of salmonella turned out to be from dog food,” says Dr. Ann Hohenhaus, a veterinarian from the Animal Medical Center in New York. Turtles, chicks, ducks and reptiles are also at a higher risk of carrying salmonella.

To stay safe, you and your children should always wash hands after touching an animal or handling their food, says Hohenhaus. Also tell your kids not to kiss your pets, and be sure to clean your pet’s food bowl every day, dispose of waste properly and keep your cat’s litter box clean. If you are pregnant or have a weakened immune system, ask a family member to do this for you.

2. Cat scratch disease

A scratch, lick or bite from a cat or kitten can cause this bacterial infection, which results in swelling of the lymph nodes and dangerous complications for people with weak immune systems. To prevent it, the CDC recommends you control fleas in your cat and discourage rough play. If you or your children do get scratched, wash hands with soap and water immediately and consider obedience training for your pet.

3. Allergies

Pet dander – a combination of dead skin cells and hair – can cause allergies in the form of sneezing, watery eyes and a runny nose. The easiest way to avoid these allergens is to keep your home clean and free of dust. A pet odor eliminator will also come in handy for a fresh-smelling sanctuary. And try to bathe your pet at least weekly and keep it off the couch and bed. You and your kids can just as easily cuddle on the floor!

4. Rabies

This serious viral disease can be transmitted through the bite of an infected animal but is easily prevented with a vaccine.

5. Lyme disease

Your pet won’t directly give you this bacterial infection, but a tick on its fur can transmit the disease to you. If you live near a wooded area or have a yard, Hohenhaus suggests keeping it free of leaves and organic trash, trimming your bushes and using a lawn spray to keep ticks away. “Always check your dog before bringing it indoors,” says Hohenhaus. Keep your pet well-groomed and have yearly vet visits for preventative care.

The benefits to having a pet usually outweigh the risks: Research has shown that living with a pet can help lower blood pressure and lessen feelings of stress and loneliness. Plus, studies have also shown that children who grow up with a cat or dog are less likely to have allergies and asthma. So enjoy your pet, and just remember that a clean home is a healthy home.



About the Author

Lauren Fischer is a freelance writer and a former editor of Woman’s World magazine, The Dog Daily and The Daily Cat.

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5 Responses to “Could Your Pet Make Your Family Sick?”

  1. I am SO allergic to my dog but I didn’t find it out until well after I got him because I’m not allergic to puppies, I’m allergic to adult dogs. I know I won’t be getting another one when I lost this big guy but I’m glad I have him around now. I think it’s important for kids to be around pets.

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  1. Pet Allergies | Histamine Intolerance says:

    […] Pet Allergies Many people are allergic to the family pet and research has shown that people are all… cats about twice as frequently as dogs. Getting rid of the beloved family pet is usually not an option. Therefore we have to learn how to live with our allergies by learning how to manage them. Most people think that allergies are caused by cat or dog hair but that is not really the problem. Allergic reactions are caused by proteins called allergens that come from oil glands in the skin and are shed as dander allergens. Allergens are also found in the saliva and urine of cats and dogs. Allergens are very pervasive and cling to clothes, furniture fabric and shoes. Cat allergens have been found in houses many months after the cat has departed and have also been found many houses of people that never owned a cat. Dander allergens are really dead skin cells that can be transferred to your pet’s fur when they clean and lick themselves. A major problem for individuals predisposed to allergies occurs when they inhale airborne pet dander allergens. Allergic reactions result when minute particles of dander fool our immune systems into thinking that the dander is an invading antibody. Our immune system releases histamines to fight the “dander” antibody which results in the familiar sneezing, coughing, runny nose, itching eyes and difficult breathing. The first exposure to an allergen doesn’t usually trigger symptoms and it takes multiple exposures over a period of weeks or months to produce full blown reactions. So how do we cope or manage the situation so that we can live with our cat or dog? We can first find out if we are really allergic to the family pet, or something else like dust, pollen or mold, by visiting an allergist physician and getting tested for various allergens. If your allergic reactions are severe then the allergist may recommend allergy shots to desensitize your reaction to dander allergens. Next you can try and allergen proof your home by getting rid of your carpets and replacing your curtains with vertical blinds. Easily washed surfaces can eliminate a lot of dander allergens. If you have wall-to-wall carpeting then have it steam cleaned fairly often. If possible install air cleaners and air filters and vacuum often with a vacuum cleaner with a high allergen containment rating. Restrict your pet’s access to your bed and bedroom and try to keep pets off the chairs and sofa that you regularly use. Try to minimize the dander allergens on your pets by washing them weekly with a special moisturizing allergy shampoo. Obviously, it is easier to do with a dog than a cat. Wash your hands frequently when playing with or grooming your pet. Try spraying your pet’s coat with an anti-allergy spray that helps eliminate allergens. Try to groom your pet frequently as the combing and brushing will help stimulate a healthy skin. Try and do the grooming outside your house and if possible get someone else to do the grooming. If it isn’t possible then wear rubber gloves and a mask to reduce your exposure to the dander. Finally, if you are getting a new cat or dog, you may want to try and get a breed that produces less dander. All pets produce some dander – even the so-called hypoallergenic pure-bred and hybrid designer breeds. Smaller pets produce less dander than larger pets. Light-colored and short haired cats seem to produce less dander. In dogs, many of the non-shedding or low-shedding breeds may also produce less dander. See the Dog Allergies section of http://www.dog-breed-facts.com/dog-allergies.html for a list of dog breeds that should produce less dander. […]



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