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Your Pet, Your Health
courtesy of Phoenix Lab
Pets provide many healthy benefits for people. Studies have shown that owning a pet can decrease your blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels, as well as decreasing heart attack mortality by 3%. Pet owners also have better psychological well-being. This includes decreased feelings of loneliness and isolation. Children experience positive self-esteem by owning a pet and score significantly higher on empathy and pro-social orientation scales.
Pets also provide opportunities for exercise and outdoor activities, as well as increasing opportunities for socialization. 70% of families report an increase in happiness and fun subsequent to a pet acquisition.
That's the upside, but it is important to note that despite all the benefits of pet ownership, there are cautions. Animals can transmit zoonotic diseases, that is, illnesses that can be transmitted from animal to human. Keep in mind that it is unlikely that just owning or touching a pet would cause illness.
The number one way to protect yourself is simple, wash your hands after contact with animals or their feces.
There are people, depending on their age or health status and immunity, who may be at greater risk of getting sick.
These people include:
Infants and children less than 5 years of age
The most dangerous, but fortunately rarest zoonotic disease is rabies. Rabies is caused by a virus and can be carried and transmitted by any mammal. Cats and dogs should always be routinely vaccinated against rabies. This protects them from contracting rabies from wild animals and transmitting it to their humans. Mammals can also carry ticks that are infected with rickettsial diseases such as Ehrlichiosis and Lyme disease.
Your wonderful, lovable pup can carry a variety of germs. Puppies especially may transmit Campylobacter in their feces. This bacteria causes diarrhea in humans.
Your furry prince/princess can carry diseases in their feces or through their bites or scratches. Cat Scratch Fever is a bacterial infection caused by bites or scratches. Some people seem to be more susceptible to this disease than others. Decrease the likelihood of transmission by trimming your cat's nails or using cat nail covers.
It is vital that pregnant women avoid changing litter boxes (the organisms can be inhaled in the dust).
Kitten feces can also carry Roundworm eggs and larvae. If these are accidentally ingested, the eyes and liver may be damaged. Ringworm fungus can be carried on the fur of adult cats or kittens and humans can become infected through skin cuts or scrapes after close contact with these pets.
FISH, AMPHIBIANS & REPTILES
Frogs, toads, fish and the water they live in can carry bacteria that may cause illness in people. Turtles that have a shell diameter less than 4 inches are of particular concern. All of these types of pets may carry a bacterium called Salmonella. The symptoms of infection in humans include severe nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and even death if untreated. The transmission of this disease is greatly reduced simply by good hand washing after touching these pets. Their habitats should never be cleaned or kept in the kitchen or other food preparation areas.
Fish can carry Mycobacterium. There is controversy over whether or not the species of mycobacterium that live in fresh water can cause local skin irritations in humans. Individuals who are immuno-compromised and young children should avoid handling fish and aquarium tank water without gloves.
Be aware of rats or mice used as food sources for snakes. Wild rodents can carry the Lympocytic Choriomeningitis Virus and infect pet rodents sold in pet stores or breeding facilities, as well as in the home. This virus can cause severe flu-like symptoms in humans.
Pocket pet refers to rats, mice, rabbits, gerbils, hamsters, ferrets, hedgehogs, guinea pigs, or chinchillas. These pets are usually kept in cages but may still become infected with Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis Virus. This virus can cause severe flu-like symptoms in humans.
Different types of birds can carry different diseases. Baby chicks and ducklings may carry Salmonella. Parakeets and parrots as well as wild birds can carry Chlamydia Psittaci. This bacterium causes Psittacosis in humans. The symptoms of this disease include severe pneumonia and even death. Wearing gloves when changing bird cages and cleaning the cages in a well-ventilated area greatly decreases the likelihood of contracting these diseases.
THE EASIEST & MOST EFFECTIVE DETERRENT AGAINST ZOONOTIC DISEASE IS VERY THOROUGH HANDWASHING WITH SOAP AND WATER!