Tips for protecting your pet and your family:
· Keep cages or pens scrupulously clean and free from droppings.
· Remove solid waste from the cat litter box daily.
· Keep household pets clean and free of ticks and mites.
· Do not feed your pets raw meat.
· Discourage children from attempting to pet or handle unfamiliar animals because there is no way of knowing whether they are healthy. Moreover, some animals do not recognize such attempts as friendly and respond by biting.
· Never allow children to pet or handle a sick animal. And teach children to wash their hands routinely after handling any animal.
· Do not adopt wild animals as pets if they are injured. Call the local humane society or a wildlife rehabilitator who will take care of the injured animals.
· Avoid walking dogs in tick-infested areas during the summer months.
· Never use pet waste as fertilizer. This material actually has little fertilizer value, but can spread disease.
· Keep children's sandboxes covered when not in use. Otherwise, they make tempting outdoor litter boxes for neighborhood cats.
· If your dog or cat has access to a wooded area, check the pet daily for ticks. If you find ticks, remove them carefully to avoid being bitten. Deer ticks, associated with the transmission of Lyme disease, are much smaller than dog ticks. Roller-type lint removers are effective in removing non-attached ticks.
· The companionship of many kinds of pets can be safely enjoyed with the exercise of common sense and some reasonable precautions. The first rule of thumb is to be certain that the pet you choose is healthy. A dull coat or drooping feathers and lethargic behavior are not good signs. You may want to check with a veterinarian or animal welfare organization for further tips on the physical appearance of the kind of pet you are considering.
· In addition to looking over an animal with care, check out its surroundings. Are they clean? Are cages and pens kept free from animal feces? And, if you are dealing with a pet store, do the other animals appear clean and healthy? Once again, a veterinarian or local animal welfare organization can be a good source of information on reputable stores and breeders in your area.
Even if you don't consult with a veterinarian before obtaining a pet, you will want to line one up to treat and care for your animal. This is an especially good idea if you have chosen a bird or more unusual animal. Some vets may specialize in the care of these animals; others may not include them in their practice.
An initial check-up is definitely recommended to be sure there are no problems that may have escaped the untrained eye. For dogs and cats, puppies and kittens, you will need to provide the vet all available information on inoculations and worming treatments.
Determine whether your vet has a procedure for reminding you when it is time for new inoculations. If not, set up a schedule and follow it carefully. You should also keep in mind that dogs and cats may be exposed to parasitic worms and need to be routinely checked and possibly dewormed regularly.
Writing in the Journal of Pediatric Infectious Disease, Philip Goscienski, M.D., notes that animal-transmitted diseases are all too often unsuspected and unrecognized. He adds that a physician treating a veterinarian or a zookeeper who is ill will be apt to suspect an animal-transmitted disease at once, but a pediatrician treating a child who recently received a puppy as a birthday present may not. When any family member is ill, therefore, it is important to mention to the treating physician the number and kinds of pets in your home.
Being alert to the possibility of animal-transmitted disease and following some simple and sensible steps can do a good deal to remove the risks from pet ownership and permit you and your family to enjoy the pleasures.
Judy Folkenberg, staff writer for FDA Consumer, contributed to this article.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration "FDA Consumer Magazine"