Make good health your pet project: Safe hygiene can prevent catching a bug from your furriest family member

Pets are a great source of comfort in any season, but they may receive a little more attention during the winter months. This companionship is known to provide a variety of health benefits, such as the alleviation of symptoms related to loneliness and depression. According to the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention, they can help lower your blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. They can also help prevent feelings of loneliness and
give you more opportunities for exercise, outdoor activities, and socialization.

Unfortunately, pets can also transfer various bacteria and parasites that cause diseases called zoonoses. Though rarely life-threatening, these illnesses can turn a cozy afternoon on the couch into a feverish night in bed. Protect yourself and your family by keeping these tips in mind:

  • Do not allow pets to lick your face.
  • Wash any accidental bites or scratches immediately.
  • If you are pregnant, do not handle pet rodents or adopt a new cat.
  • If you have a weakened immune system, talk with your veterinarian and primary care physician about extra precautions to take.
  • Wash your hands after playing with your pets, especially before eating.

WASTE: WANT NOT!

Cleaning up after your pets is never fun, but it can be downright harmful if not done correctly. To avoid getting infections such as salmonella or giardia, take care of pet waste promptly, wear gloves to avoid handling waste directly  and always wash your hands when you are done. Also, if you are pregnant and own a cat, be sure to have someone else change the litter. Cat feces contain Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite that can cause birth defects.

UNWANTED GUESTS

Fleas and ticks can also spread disease by using your pet to catch a ride into your home. To stop these parasites in their tracks, be sure to:

  • Use a veterinarian-approved product to repel pests, and routinely check your animals before they return inside your home.
  • Remove ticks from your pets immediately and wash your hands afterward.

In general, healthier pets mean a healthier home for you and your family, so be sure to schedule annual physicals, as well as take them to the veterinarian whenever they are sick.

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