Love Those Critters, But Oh Those Germs.

22 01 2010

We love our pets. They give us unconditional love, cuddle when we want (and sometimes when we don’t), and make us laugh.

They also can be good for our health by reducing stress, improving moods, and lowering blood pressure.

But, our critters can infect us with some nasties – H1N1 is just one (huge) example of that.

To give an idea of what germs may lurk in our pets:

  • There are certain bacteria that live in animals’ guts that can cause infections that bring on diarrhea, abdominal pain, and fever in humans.
  • There is an infection that’s caused by worms that live in dog and cat intestines. People can get these worms by coming into contact with the worms’ eggs in an animal’s infected feces. This is where good hand cleaning can make a big difference in preventing infection. If the eggs get in your mouth and gut, you can get sick with fever, swollen glands, muscle pain, headache, cough, sore throat and rash.
  • A certain parasite is sometimes found in cat feces that can cause an infection that is particularly dangerous to pregnant woman because of the harmful effects to the baby she is carrying.
  • Cat scratch disease (a.k.a. cat scratch fever), tapeworms, and ringworm are also diseases that can be caught from cats and/or dogs.
  • Let’s not forget our avian friends–even those we keep in a cage. You can be exposed to some diseases by inhaling the fungus from bird droppings, ending up with serious problems like brain inflammation and pneumonia.  Parrot fever is transmitted by coming into contact with infected bird poop or dust in bird cages, causing cough, fever and chills. And, let’s not forget avian flu, although that would normally come from outdoor birds.
  • Salmonella can be caught from pets such as lizards, snakes, turtles and frogs.  Most reptiles and amphibians carry Salmonella in their digestive system and feces, and they can also carry it on their skin. People can get sick with Salmonella just from touching the animal or cleaning the cage.
  • Rodent pets such as hamsters, gerbils, and guinea pigs can carry diseases such as rabies and rabbit fever.  Rabies may be transmitted when an infected animal bites you. For rabbit fever and other diseases, you must come into contact with the animal’s urine or feces to get infected.

We need to protect ourselves and our kids from infections. After touching, feeding, or cleaning up a pet’s waste, we should always wash our hands. A good way to protect ourselves is by wearing gloves when we clean the cat’s litter box or a pet’s cage. And, we shouldn’t feed our critters raw meat or let them drink water from the toilet. Doing so can make them sick and they can pass that along to us.

Finally, make sure the pets have all their vaccines!

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