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Healthy Pets

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Avoid contact when you can

To lower your risk of getting a disease from an animal:

  • Avoid touching animal feces or urine.
  • Avoid touching an animal, then touching your face, food, or other things you'll touch later, such as a phone or a wallet.
  • Don't let an animal lick your mouth or face. Protect wounds from animal saliva.
  • Keep pets out of your bed.
  • Avoid wild animals. If you need to touch or move an injured or dead animal, wear gloves. Use caution.
  • Avoid touching dirt or sand where feces are likely to have been. This could be in a sandbox or a garden area. Wearing shoes and gloves helps protect you.

Help children stay healthy around animals

  • At a petting zoo or farm, avoid pacifier use. Watch for thumb-sucking and eating with unwashed hands.
  • Help with thorough hand-washing right after a child touches or handles an animal.
  • Do not allow children to handle turtles, baby chicks or ducklings, or other small pets. Young children tend to kiss or lick these types of animals. Some children may even try to swallow the smallest turtles and could choke.
  • Teach children to avoid animals they don't know and to always ask for permission before going near someone else's animal.

What are common infections from pets?

Even pets that seem to be healthy can spread disease. Common infections you can get from pets include:

  • Cat-scratch fever, which causes swelling and pain in the lymph nodes and loss of appetite. In most cases, it occurs after a scratch, bite, or lick in an open wound from a cat or kitten.
  • Campylobacter and cryptosporidium, which cause diarrhea, cramping, stomach pain, fever, and vomiting. You can be infected when you handle feces from a dog, a cat, or a farm animal. Be especially careful around an animal with diarrhea.
  • Hookworms and roundworms, which can cause stomach pain, bleeding, swelling, diarrhea, and sometimes painful skin irritation. You can get these tiny worms from animal feces.
  • Rabies, which can affect the brain and spinal cord. It is nearly always fatal if not treated before symptoms appear. You can be infected when you handle an infected pet or wild animal, especially if you are bitten or scratched.
  • Salmonellosis, which causes diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps. You can be infected by handling reptiles, baby chicks and ducklings, and small rodents such as hamsters and guinea pigs.
  • Toxoplasmosis, which can cause no symptoms or a mild flu-like illness. Toxoplasmosis can be dangerous for a pregnant woman's developing baby (fetus) and for someone with a weak immune system. You can get it by touching an infected cat, its feces, or something that the cat has touched.

What infections can you get from farm and wild animals?

E. coliE. coli is a common infection that can cause a dangerous type of diarrhea. You can be infected by cattle on a farm or by sheep or goats in a petting zoo.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: May 08, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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