Pet Ownership Health Hazards: How to Protect Your Health as a Pet ParentPublished August 17, 2012
The family pet is a beloved relative with whom we share our lives. However, there can be disadvantages to sharing our living spaces with our four-legged friends. Studies have shown that as pet owners, we can compromise our health by kissing pets, feeding our animals, cleaning their litter boxes or even, scooping up their poop.
Kissing and Licking
Pet kissing, licking or excessive sniffing can transmit disease. A Japanese study, found evidence of zoo noses - diseases or infections transmitted from animals to humans. This study documented mild to life-threatening infections, internal parasites and other serious diseases by pets that licked or kissed their owners.
Dogs and cats carry Staphylococcus on their noses and on their coats, and it can cause a range of illnesses in humans, from skin and wound infections to Pneumonia and Meningitis. For example, one subject of the study, a 60-year-old British woman contracted meningitis after repeatedly kissing the family dog.
To protect yourself, discourage your dog or cat from kissing, licking or sniffing you excessively. If your pet licks and sniffs your mouth, an open wound or just your skin, wash with soap and water. Wet your hands with clean running water (warm or cold) and apply soap. Rub your hands together to make a lather and scrub them well; be sure to scrub the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails and other body parts for at least twenty seconds or as long as it takes you to sing happy birthday twice. Learn more about washing your hands to prevent the spread of infection and illness.
Additionally, if your pet kisses you on the mouth, brush teeth, and use an antiseptic mouthwash to inhibit the growth and reproduction of microorganisms, including bacteria, as well as fungi, protozoa, and viruses and wash your face with soap and water.
Cleaning the Litter Box
In many cases, people have become ill by coming into contact with dirty cat litter. Cat waste can carry Ringworm, E.Coli and Toxoplasmosis which are all harmful to humans. To clean litter box, put on rubber gloves (used only for this chore) or use disposals (throw out immediately after use) before attending to the scoop daily or wash out litter box. Place the feces in a plastic bag and tie the top tightly before disposing in the general trash. Wash litter box with mild detergent and a capful of bleach. Don’t forget to wash litter scooper and the surface where you keep the box, too. Completely dry litter box and utensils before refilling with litter. Do not compost pet waste unless you have specialty composting facilities.
Feeding Your Pet
From the Diamond Foods pet food recall of Spring 2012, it was reported that pet owners contracted Salmonella from handling the Company’s pet food. To prevent contracting Salmonella or viruses, keep abreast of pet food news by setting up Google alerts about your pet food brand on your computer and by checking with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Also, it is advised that you should not use your hands to scoop the food but a scooper or measuring cup to feed from the bag. Experts recommend that you thoroughly clean all utensils, bowls and surfaces after pet food preparation and keep them separate your dinner and cookware. If possible, avoid feeding your pet in the same area of the kitchen that you prepare the food for yourself or your family. After, humans should wash hands thoroughly after handling any pet food and treats.
If your believer that you brand of pet food, including dry pet food, could be contaminated check your supply of pet food by comparing the numbers underneath the barcode to see whether it is affected by the recall. If it is on the recall list, either throw it away or return the unused portion to the retailer.
If you have handled and feed your pet contaminated food and either of you develop symptoms of Salmonella (stomach ache, diarrhea and or vomiting), seek immediate medical attention and mention the possible link to pet food. Ask your veterinarian to test your pet for Salmonella. If the test is positive, you or your veterinarian should contact your county or city health department and the Federal Food and Drug Administration.
Reporting illnesses to your local health department helps them identify potential foodborne disease outbreaks. Please refer to your state health department website to find more information about how to contact your local health department. By investigating foodborne disease outbreaks, public health officials learn about possible problems in food preparation, production and distribution that may cause illness.
Sleeping in Bed Together
According to a 2005 American Kennel Club survey, about one in five dog owners shared their bed with their pets-- and women were slightly more likely to embrace the practice than men. Another more recent study reported while 62 percent of cat owners slept with their felines, 16 percent said their cats snuggled in bed with their kids.
While the likelihood of pet owners getting infected from their sleeping with pets remains small, the study recommends pet owners sleep alone, especially if they have an illness that lowers their immune system. Additionally, it suggests preventing young children from sleeping with animals for the same reason.
In an MSNBC interview, Bruno Chomel, a professor at the University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and an expert in zoonoses said ' “I know this will make me unpopular, but pets really don’t belong n your bed." '
Chomel and Ben Sun, chief veterinarian with the California Department of Public Health co- wrote “Zoonoses in the Bedroom,” a study published in the 2011 February issue of the CDC journal Emerging Infectious Diseases. The two searched through medical journals to find examples of pets making people ill after sharing a bed. Among them was a 9-year-old Arizona boy that developed plague after sleeping with his flea-infested cat.
It is best to make sure, you provide your animal with flea and tick medications throughout the year to avoid you both being bitten by parasites and/or your becoming ill.
Picking up Poop
When infected dog poop is deposited on your lawn, the eggs of certain parasites (Cryptosporidium, Giardia and Salmonella) and worms (Hookworms, Ringworms and Tapewoms), can linger in your soil. Anyone who comes into contact with that soil by gardening, playing sports, walking barefoot or any other means can runs the risk of coming into contact with those eggs, including the family dog or cat.
If you have a fever, muscle aches, headache, vomiting, and diarrhea soon after spending time in your yard, you could be infected. Children are most susceptible, since they often play in the dirt and put things in their mouths or eyes.
To avoid health problem, pick up the poop in your yard regularly and on any dogs walks you take with your dog. To do so, place your hand inside the bag as if it were a glove and grasp the poop on the ground and pick it up into the bag. Use your other hand to pull the top of the bag over your fist and turn the bag back outside in, retaining the poop inside the bag. Tie and put the waste in the nearest trash receptacle. Do not compost pet waste.
If you want extra protection, use a disposable latex glove to wear as well, and dispose of it in the trash at the same time as discarding the poop in a bag. If you are at home, wash your hands immediately. If you are on a walk, you could also bring along hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol as an additional cleaning precaution. Also, clean leashes regularly.
By taking these simple precautions, you can continue to enjoy your pet, while protecting your health too.