Who can resist a puppy that snuggles up to you when you get home after a long day, or a dog who wags its tail when you pass by? Dogs -- and other pets -- can be a man's best friend. But sometimes, that furry delight may pose health threats you never knew existed. Your pet dog, cat and fish may carry viruses that can infect you, its owner, or your loved ones.
Rabies -- People -- especially children -- catch this dreaded virus when an infected dog bites them.
Ringworm -- This is not a worm at all but a microscopic fungus related to athlete’s foot. Affected animals may show very few symptoms. The usual sign is circular areas of hair loss. The affected area gets scaly, flaky and itchy. Ringworm is easily cured, but can cause scarring.
Salmonella -- These bacteria can live in the intestines of pets and rarely affect their human owners. But when they do, the effect is severe. Most infections lead to gastroenteritis, and some cause typhoid fever. Dogs and cats with salmonella can infect people with diarrhea fever and abdominal cramps. The bacteria is usually present in pet reptiles and amphibians, as well as “feeder mice” fed to pet reptiles. That's why it's always important to wash your hands after handling pets and pet food. It's just as important to prepare raw animal food and human food separately.
Toxoplasma -- This cat parasite is found in the feline's feces. Pregnant women who get infected with toxoplasma may -- however rarely -- pass on the acute complications to their unborn babies. Pregnant women should wash their hands often and avoid cat litter trays, especially those that are not cleaned regularly. They should also stay away from uncooked garden produce where cats may have spent time on the soil.
Bites and scratches -- Children usually fall victim to bites and scratches which, unfortunately, can be fatal. Cats can carry the Bartonella henselae bacterium, which causes “cat-scratch disease”. Bites and scratch wounds can become badly infected and lead to more pain. As in most cases, these infections affect children, the elderly, those with immunosuppressive diseases like HIV or AIDS and people under chemotherapy and other forms of medical treatments.
Your veterinarian can advise you on the best course of action to take. Find someone your pet lover friends highly recommend. Then visit the vet clinic and ask for a tour. Is the staff friendly and accommodating? Do they answer your questions well? Do they make follow-up reports or inquire about your pet's condition after you and your friend pay a visit? Is the clinic clean and free from foul odor? Does it have the latest veterinary equipment?
A pet can be an wellspring of joy, especially to children. Keeping them disease-free not only ensures that you, its owner, and the young ones who seek them out for companionship, enjoy their presence. Their unconditional love raises the fun level at home, where they have become more and more, a vital part of a happy family.