For many of us our pet dogs and cats are like family members and best friends. They love us unconditionally, make us laugh, and keep us company. We care about them so much that we forgot they could be associated with many health issues. The most common and dangerous are animal bites. According to CDC, every year more than 800,000 patients are seen for domestic animal bites and half of them are children. Most incidents happen among young children from the ages of 5 to 9 and boys tend to be bitten twice as often as girls. It is very important that we do not leave small children unattended around dogs or cats and we must teach them not to tease animals while they are eating or sleeping. Although some of the bites or scratches could be minor, nevertheless many times they require surgical repair and treatment with antibiotics for bacterial infection. Even if a pet is vaccinated, their saliva can be highly contaminated with bacteria which can cause serious infections in humans. Victims of domestic animal bites should be given a tetanus vaccine as soon as possible, unless they have already had the shot within past 10 years. A wild animal bite requires a rabies vaccine.
Other health risks associated with pets:
Ringworm is a very common skin infection caused by a fungus. It is a rash which forms in a red ring and itches. People can get it simply by touching an infected animal. Cats are most likely to transmit this disease than dogs. Ringworm can be treated with over-the-counter anti-fungal cream. With severe cases, a prescribed medication may be necessary.
Ticks and Fleas
Ticks and fleas are the most common problem for a pet owner and a difficult issue to resolve. Pets can easily pick up fleas and ticks from the grass and pass it to humans. Most of the time these insects only cause minor rash and itching, however, some type ticks may cause Lyme disease. All pets should be periodically treated with medications to kill potential fleas and ticks that could attach to their fur.
An animal’s feces is contaminated with bacteria and parasites. Bacteria and parasites can attach to the animal’s fur and create a risk in humans for diarrhea and other gastrointestinal diseases if proper hand hygiene is not performed. The symptoms can range from minor (vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps) to severe, requiring IV administration for dehydration. One of the most dangerous parasites found in animal feces is Toxoplasma which can lead to a birth defect or even death of an unborn child. It is important for pregnant women and people with a compromised immunity to avoid contact with litter box.
To prevent health risks associated with your pets you should:
- Make sure that your pet is current with vaccinations for rabies and other diseases.
- Teach young children not to disturb animals while they are sleeping or eating.
- Do not leave young children alone with pets.
- Keep your pet’s litter box clean at all times. Remove feces from it as soon as possible.
- Brush your pet’s fur often and check for possible ticks or flees.
The information provided is for general interest only and should not be misconstrued as a diagnosis, prognosis or treatment recommendation. This information does not in any way constitute the practice of medicine, or any other health care profession. Readers are directed to consult their health care provider regarding their specific health situation. Marque Medical is not liable for any action taken by a reader based upon this information.