Your Health Lindsay Guinaugh | 7 years ago

Pet Project: 8 Ways to Avoid Pet related Sickness

While it’s true the health benefits of having a pet are well documented, there are instances in which Rover or Mittens might actually make you sick.

Some of the illnesses pet owners can contract from their “best friends” have a pretty high ick factor (think parasitic worms, ew) – but it’s not all that common. With vigilant hand-washing and careful pet hygiene, catching anything from your pet can be avoided. “As is the case with preventing the spread of most germs AND parasites, hand-washing is key when caring for and loving your pets – and keeping yourself healthy along the way,” said said Abi Olulade, MD, from Carmel Family Physicians, part of Carolinas HealthCare System. Not touching pet waste (urine or stool) and carefully washing your hands once you've cleaned up after your pet is key. In addition to avoiding direct contact with pet waste, Dr. Olulade also shares the following tips to keep your pet-loving family healthy:
  1. Place a rug by the door your pet uses to go in and out of the house so his paws won’t drag in as much dust, dirt and pollen from outside. This will help cut down on allergens in the house.
  2. Wash your hands after cleaning soiled carpets or cleaning out litter boxes.
  3. Keep a pack of hand-sanitizing wipes in your pocket to clean your hands after picking up your dog’s waste on a walk. Wash your hands with soap and water when you return from your walk.
  4. Avoid mouth-to-mouth contact with your pet. “We always hear that a dog’s mouth contains fewer germs than a human’s,” said Dr. Olulade. “But you see what your dog eats and chews on in the backyard. You don’t want to expose yourself or your child to that.”
  5. Keep your backyard sandbox covered so it doesn't become a litter box for the neighbor’s outdoor cat (and it will).
  6. Pregnant women should not clean out litter boxes because a disease called toxoplasmosis can be carried through a cat’s stool. This disease can be harmful to an unborn baby.
  7. Consider adopting an older cat or dog that is already house or litter box trained. This will allow you to avoid cleaning up lots of messes – and helps you avoid the germs along the way.
  8. Teach youngsters how to approach, pet and handle a dog or cat to help avoid injury or mishap. Young children are more likely to be scratched, jumped on or bitten.
If you suspect your child (or you) are allergic to your pet, see your doctor. Pet allergies show up in various forms: rashes, difficulty breathing, and itchy, watery eyes are just a few of the symptoms. It’s always a good idea to ask questions of your physician AND your veterinarian, if you suspect your pet is making you sick,” said Dr. Olulade. Carolinas HealthCare System is committed to making it easy to keep you and your family healthy. To learn more about how we make health easy for you, visit CarolinasHealthCare/CareMadeEasy.