Keeping Kids Healthy Advice
Getting a pet for your child can teach them responsibility, as well as respect for nature and other living things. But pets can carry infections that can be passed to your family.
Animals can spread germs just like people can. Diseases passed from animals to people are called zoonoses and children, elderly people, people with compromised immune systems, and pregnant women are most likely to get them. Some common diseases that pets can have are not transmitted to humans, but pets can also carry bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi that can cause people to become sick. These germs can be transferred to humans through bites, scratches, and contact with an animal’s waste, saliva, or dander (flakes from hair, feathers, or skin). Pets also carry ticks and fleas in their fur, which can bite people and transfer parasitic eggs or germs to people.
Several diseases are spread more commonly by cats and dogs than by other pets, such as cat scratch disease, ringworm, toxocariasis and toplasmosis.
Cat scratch disease can be transferred through a cat scratch or bite. Symptoms of the disease include a pus-filled sore at the site of the injury, swollen, tender lymph nodes, fever, headache and fatigue. These symptoms usually go away without treatment, but your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic.
Worms are the most common parasite that cause infections in cats and dogs. Eggs that worms lay may fall onto clothes or furniture and fleas that carry the eggs can bite you and spread the infection to you. Some worms can enter your body through the skin.
Ringworm is caused by several kinds of fungus and is highly infectious. If your pet has patches of hair missing, scaly skin or is constantly grooming, it may have ringworm. Itchy, red circular areas on skin may be ringworm.
Toxoplasmosis, or litter box disease, can be spread to humans through contact with a parasite that is present in cat feces, soil, or undercooked meat. Your cat will probably not have any signs of the infection, but a person that has been infected will feel like they have the flu. Signs of toxoplasmosis include swollen lymph nodes, fatigue, fever and headache. Always wash your hands after cleaning your cat’s litter box, and if you are pregnant, have someone else clean the litter box because toxoplasmosis can cause miscarriage, premature birth and mental retardation in newborns.
Toxocariasis is an infection caused by roundworms. Dogs get roundworms more often than cats and the infection is more severe for children than adults. Symptoms may include hives, muscle pain, fever, cough, wheezing, abdominal pain, and in rare cases, toxocariasis can lead to partial blindness and swelling of the organs and central nervous system.
You can prevent contracting germs and parasites from your pet by:
Washing hands often after petting, feeding or cleaning up after your pet
Not sharing food with your pet and keeping your dog or cat out of the kitchen when handling food
Not kissing your pet on the mouth or touching your pet’s mouth
Keeping your pet’s living area clean
Wearing gloves when cleaning out your cat’s litter box or disposing of your dog’s waste
Wearing shoes outside
Controlling fleas and ticks
Keeping your pet leashed when outside and keeping them away from other animals
Taking your pet to the Vet for regular check-ups
If you suspect that you or your child has contracted a disease from your pet, see your doctor and take your pet to the Vet.