8 Ways to Protect Your Pets from Disease

Science has shown that a pet can help improve a person’s health and overall wellbeing. Whether you’re a cat or a dog person, one thing is for sure — you want the best for your animal companion. Pets can catch different types of diseases, which can make them sick. These diseases affect their quality of life and can be passed on to you. 

1. Keep Up with Vaccinations

One of the best ways you can protect your pet from disease is with vaccines. Some diseases you can help prevent include:

Some vaccines are required depending on where you live. Your vet may recommend others based on your pet and their risk to various diseases. To provide the best protection, follow the vaccination schedule for your pet. Some vaccines may require boosters every few years. 

2. Use Preventative Medications

Fleas and ticks are common issues for cats and dogs, especially ones that spend time outside. These parasites are irritating and can carry disease. Ticks can spread:

Providing your pet with a flea and tick preventative can help keep these parasites at bay. There are flea and tick collars, topical medications, and oral medications. You can ask for a heartworm preventative. ‌

When it comes to preventative medications, there are several over-the-counter and prescription options. Speak with your vet to determine the best ones for your pet. 

3. Check Over Your Pets When They Come Inside

If your pet spends any amount of time outside, it’s always a good idea to check them over for fleas and ticks — even if you’re using preventative medicines. Be sure to check indoor pets regularly if they live with another animal that goes outside. If you do find a tick, remove it as soon as possible to lower the risk of your pet getting sick or developing an infection. If you’re having trouble removing the tick yourself, call your vet to schedule an appointment. 

4. Get Routine Vet Visits

While pets often show signs of illness, some symptoms aren’t always noticeable right away. Annual (or twice yearly) wellness exams by a professional vet can help uncover issues, including diseases, that you might not know your pet has. 

During routine exams, your vet will check over your pet from head to tail. As they listen, look, and feel around, they’ll check for signs of potential problems. They’ll run different tests, including bloodwork and a fecal exam. These tests can uncover certain issues, such as parasites and diseases. If your vet finds something wrong, they’ll recommend a course of treatment, which might include procedures or medications. 

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5. Schedule an Appointment if Your Pet Shows Signs of Illness

Your pet can get many diseases that will cause various symptoms. For instance, symptoms of parvovirus (a disease affecting the small intestines) can include lethargy, loss of appetite, and bloody diarrhea.

Symptoms of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever include coughing, difficulty breathing, and facial swelling. While some symptoms may be nothing serious, schedule an appointment as soon as possible if you notice something wrong with your pet. The earlier you visit your vet, the easier many diseases will be to treat. 

6. Keep Pets Away from Wildlife

Wild animals like raccoons, opossums, and others can carry diseases that may spread to your pet if they are bitten or scratched. You can keep your pets safe by making sure they are away from wildlife. If your pets go outdoors, walk them on a leash or keep them in a fenced yard.

Take measures to avoid wild animals, too. Don’t leave food or water outside. Keep outdoor trash cans covered tightly or store them in the garage until trash day. Again, make sure vaccinations are up-to-date. Call animal control if you find wild animals living under your porch or where they shouldn’t be on your property. 

7. Watch What Your Pet Eats

A healthy diet is important for your pets. Some pets, however, are curious and may tip over the trash can to see what’s inside. When they do, they might decide to ingest spoiled food, which could have bacteria or parasites on it. You should avoid letting your pets share a community water bowl, such as one at the park.  

8. Wash Your Hands Thoroughly

Since many diseases can pass from animals to humans, taking care of yourself is important, too. To avoid catching anything, always wash your hands thoroughly after petting, handling pet food and treats, and cleaning up after them. If your pet isn’t sick, maintain good practice anyway by washing your hands. 

WebMD Feature Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on August 17, 2021

Sources

SOURCES:

American Animal Hospital Association: “5 Ways to Keep Your Pets Disease Free,” “Why Are Regular Veterinary Visits Important?”

‌American Kennel Club: “Can Dogs Get Diseases from Wildlife?” “Is It Safe for Dogs to Drink Out Of Communal Water Bowls?” “Keep Your Dog Safe from Fleas and Ticks with 10 Prevention Tips,”  “Tick-Borne Diseases in Dogs: Symptoms and How to Prevent.”

‌American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: “Common Dog Diseases.”

‌American Veterinary Medical Association: “12 Dog Diseases You Can Combat with Vaccination and Deworming,” “Vaccinations.”

‌Merck Veterinary Manual: “Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (Tick Fever) in Dogs.”

‌NIH News in Health: “The Power of Pets.” 

© 2021 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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