Are you sharing your bad with your pet? And could such close contact be a health risk? Well, according to experts, any close contact with your pet carries some risk of infection. However, as long as you and your pet are both healthy, and your pet is treated regularly for fleas and worms, even close contact is rarely a problem.
What are the health risks?
There are a few studies which have looked at the risk of zoonoses, diseases which spread between humans and animals. The overall risk of catching a disease from your pet is low and likely to be contained to the aforementioned parasites and bacteria which live in as well as on your pet – viruses aren’t much of a problem. The bacteria which you could pick up from your pet fall into two categories, those already living in or on your pet and those ingested by your pet.
The second category includes some of the nastier bugs, such as Campylobacter and Salmonella. These don’t usually cause illness in your pet, but will be shed in pet’s faeces and can cause severe gastro-type illness in people. These organisms can enter in the digestive system of your pet when your pet eats raw meat, such as chicken necks. Raw meat if great for the teeth of your pet, but according to one study, there is a strong association between feeding animals with raw meat and shedding of Salmonella in the faeces.
The main health risk for humans occurs whenever we come into contact with pet’s faeces. Therefore, preparing a lunch for your family after a morning trip to the dog park without washing your hands is not a good idea. On the other hand, other bacteria are those which live naturally on your pet without causing any harm, but which can cause disease or infection in people. Staphylococcus is the most troublesome and famous example of these bugs.
The bacteria can cause many illnesses in people from skin and wound infections to meningitis. The major risk of picking up these bacteria is likely to come from letting your pet nuzzle your nose, mouth and eyes. In case you have open wounds, the risk can become more significant.
Lower the risk
For the average person who has a healthy immune system, the risk of getting sick is low, even if you share you bed with a pet and are exposed to a parasite or bacteria. However, if a person has reduced or compromised immune system, the risk increases considerably. These include the very old, the very young, those who are pregnant, those with disease such as HIV and those undergoing chemotherapy. While it is important not to overstate the risk of illness from your pet, with several easy steps it should be possible to lower it even more.
Good health care and hygiene for you as well as your pet is the simplest way to prevent potential health problems. Things you should do are:
– Remove any pet faeces from the garden and home hygienically and quickly.
– Don’t feed your pet offal and consider the risk of feeding them with raw meat.
– Be especially mindful about people who have weak immune systems.
– Wash your hands after you handle your pet.
– Take special care when young animals and children mix.
– Maintain regular flea and worming control for your pet.