Is Your Pet Making You Sick?

Undiagnosed Parasites
Is Rover Making You Sick?

Be safe before you get too close We all love our pets, but pet owners face health risks that many may not realize. First, let us say that we love our pets. They are a delight and enrich our lives every day.

This article is in no way suggesting that anyone should forgo having a pet. The benefits of having a companion animal can more than offset these risks. Still, becoming aware of and then reducing the health risks in your life is what we’re here to help you do! So today, we’ll share some tips that can help make sure you and your pet have the happiest, healthiest relationship possible.

Pet Parasites That Can Make You Ill

It’s important to note that getting a parasite from your pet is rare. However, many diseases and infections once considered rare are now becoming more common. Some pet parasites can be very serious or even deadly when contracted by a human. If you have pets, it’s important to know the signs of the most common parasites so that both you and your furry friend can enjoy the best health possible.

One of the most common undiagnosed parasites that pets – especially dogs – can carry is giardia. In most cases, a dog with giardia will experience intermittent bouts of diarrhea. Because these episodes are intermittent, your pet’s condition may go undiagnosed for months, until it becomes more serious. This could happen because every time you’re about to make an appointment to get your pet checked out by a vet, the symptoms seem to resolve and so you let it go until the next episode… and then the next. Only when your dog finally presents with acute, lasting symptoms do you make the call and get the treatment your pet needs.

By that time, you may have contracted the parasite, as well.

The best way to prevent giardia infections in both your pets and yourself is to keep your pet areas clean. Pick up droppings and give your pet fresh water every day. Wash your hands thoroughly after cleaning up after your pet. And once or twice a year, have your vet check your pet for giardia.

Other pet parasites and diseases that can infect humans include:

  • Cat scratch disease or cat scratch fever
  • Leptospirosis
  • Hookworms
  • Salmonella
  • Toxoplasmosis
  • Brucellosis
  • Strep Throat (although you’re more likely to give this to your pet than the other way around!)
  • Cryptosporidiosis

Any of these infections can leave you feeling uncomfortable and ill. Most cause either diarrhea and stomach pain or skin problems. Some cause flu-like symptoms. A few can even result in hospitalization or death.

Three Steps to Healthy Pet Ownership

Don’t let that scare you, though. A few simple precautions mean that you and your pet can have a long, happy, healthy relationship.

Hand washing is by far your best defense against pet parasites. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water every time you play with your pet or pick up after them. Any germs you encounter as a result of contact with your pet are most likely to make their way into your system through your nose, mouth, or eyes. If you wash your hands more often, you’ll cut down on your exposure.

Take your pet in for regular vet check-ups – at least once a year – and have your pet routinely tested for parasites when you do. By staying on top of your pet’s overall health, you’ll have a happier pet and you’ll cut down on your own chances of getting sick.

Finally, give your pet its own bed. About one half of pet owners let their dogs or cats sleep with them. But letting your pet sleep with you increases your risk of exposure to pet-borne illnesses.

Enjoy Your Pets

Despite the risk of pet-borne infections, the benefits of pet ownership outweigh those risks. Pets can actually give your overall health a boost. Owning a pet can reduce anxiety and loneliness. It can even lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Having a pet is a healthy choice. Just follow these three easy steps, and you’ll be on your way to enjoying all the benefits of pet ownership while significantly reducing your risk of getting sick from a pet parasite or other disease.