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When Pets Can Be Threats

Posted on Tuesday, April 18, 2017
The recent U.S. Seoul virus outbreak this winter is a reminder to always ask pet store owners, shelters, and breeders about the history and proper care of any animals you handle or bring into your home.

Pets can benefit your mental health, decrease your blood pressure and cholesterol, teach children about responsibility, and some pets can increase exercise and outdoor activity. Pet owners are also responsible for keeping their animals healthy. and healthy pets and pet care practices will prevent you and your family from getting sick.

The recent U.S. Seoul virus outbreak this winter is a reminder to always ask pet store owners, shelters, and breeders about the history and proper care of any animals you handle or bring into your home.  Seoul virus is a disease carried in rodents that can cause humans mild to deadly illness within 1 to 2 weeks after exposure. As of mid-March, 17 people from 7 U.S. states had been infected by pet rats traced back to the same breeder.

Here are some things to keep in mind when handling some common household pets:

  • Always wash your hands after handling small mammals like rats, mice, or gerbils and reptiles and amphibians, like frogs, lizards, and snakes.
  • Clean cages and litter frequently while wearing rubber gloves. Keep cages and litter boxes far away from where you prepare, store, or eat food.
  • After any pet bite, wash the wound right away with soap and water. If the pet seems sick or the wound is deep or becomes red, swollen, and painful, call your doctor. If someone if bitten by an animal that they cannot confirm is up to date on rabies shots (a stray dog in the neighborhood or an intruder animal in the house), wash the cut and seek medical attention right away.
  • Check with a doctor about what pet is right for your house if anyone who lives with you is pregnant, under five years old, elderly, or has a weakened immune system due to other health conditions.
  • Be familiar with the different diseases your pet could carry and know the signs and symptoms of these diseases both in your pet and in humans. Just a few common bugs to be aware of include: campylobacter, a bacteria causing stomach illness in humans, carried by dogs and cats; cat-scratch disease, a bacteria spread by cat bites or scratches leading to infection in the skin and sometimes fever and mild illness; salmonella, carried in many animals and most common in reptiles and farm animals, can cause serious gastrointestinal illness and fever.
  • Make sure your pet is up to date in vaccinations and family members are up to date in tetanus shots.
  • Watch children when they interact with pets. Do not let them kiss pets or do anything that could expose their skin, eyes, our mouths to pet saliva, blood, or excrement. Keep children away from animal food and litter boxes.

Treating your pet as a member of your family will keep you and your pet happy and healthy. Their health can impact yours in both positive and negative ways but illness caused by pets is preventable. To learn more, consider joining the Healthy Pets Healthy Families Initiative