Pets make great companions and are most often an integral part of our family. As pet companionship has evolved, pets now more than ever spend time in close proximity to their human family members. These days it is common for children to grow up side by side with their cherished pets, often sharing a snack together or exchanging kisses. Although your pet may appear outwardly healthy, it is possible that they can carry bacteria, viruses and parasites that can be transmitted to people during these simple daily interactions.
“ THE EASIEST AND LIKELY MOST EFFECTIVE MEASURE WE CAN TAKE IS TO ENSURE OUR CHILDREN GET INTO THE ROUTINE OF WASHING THEIR HANDS AFTER HANDLING AND INTERACTING WITH THEIR DOG.
The World Organisation for Animal Health (OiE) recognizes that, “Most of the recent emerging diseases have an animal origin, and almost all of them have zoonotic [Ed.: the ability to pass from animals to humans] potential.” So what can we do as pet parents to keep our families healthy when living so closely with our pets?
WASH YOUR HANDS
The easiest and likely most-effective measure we can take is to ensure our children get into the routine of washing their hands after handling and interacting with their dog. Dogs are self-groomers and it is possible for bacterial from their mouths to be deposited onto their fur when grooming. All we have to do is pet them and then rub our eyes, nose or mouth to allow that same bacteria to enter our bodies through our mucous membranes. Handwashing for 20 seconds with soap in warm or cold water after touching a dog, their food or collecting their waste is a great way to get rid of any unwanted germs.
HANDLE DOG FOOD AND TREATS WITH CARE
It is important to recognize that, similar to our own food, from time to time pet food may also be contaminated with organisms such as salmonella and listeria monocytogenes. The prevalence of these organisms is higher in raw food diets. If you are feeding raw food diets to your dog, it is important to thoroughly wash all counters, dishes and utensils that have been used to prepare the food and keep them separate from your family’s dishes and utensils. If raw food is being fed in your household, the task of feeding pets should be left to the adults in the house. Handwashing afterward is highly recommended.
MAKE SURE YOUR DOG HAS REGULAR VETERINARY VISITS
Making sure your dog regularly visits your veterinarian is a great way to prevent potential disease spread to your family members. Because most dogs spend time both inside and outside, they can often be the go between for disease spread. Preventive vaccinations, such as the vaccine for rabies virus, can ensure that not only your dog is protected from acquiring rabies through interactions with wildlife, but your family stays safe and free of rabies, too. Preventive treatments for parasites, such as ticks, fleas and intestinal worms, can also aid in keeping your pet healthy and preventing disease transmission between your dog and family members.
Next time you visit your veterinary healthcare team inquire about what you can do to prevent the spread of infection between your pets and family members.