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Pets 101

Tips To Help Assure Sure That You Don't Get An Infection From A Pet

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Even though according to the FDA, the risk of getting a disease from your pet is small, all pet owners should follow a few basic rules for maintaining both your health and the health of your pet. This is particularly important if you are undergoing treatment for cancer or if you have a suppressed immune system, such as people living with HIV/AIDS.

Ask your doctor if there are special precautions that you should take as a result of your pet. 

The basics to avoid infection from a pet include:

  • Practice good personal hygiene yourself. For example, always wash hands with soap and water after handling an animal or cleaning an animal’s area or toys. This is especially important before eating, preparing food, smoking, or attending to wounds
  • Wash your pet's dishes and bowls as follows:
    • Wash the dishes and bowls every day
    • Wash them separately from any dishes or utensils that you use. 
    • Wash them with hot,soapy water to kill any germs.
  • Whether you have a cat, dog or other animal, clean up after it regularly. 
    • If you have a dog: this includes picking up after Fido daily. 
    • If you have an animal that uses a litter box: 
      • The box should be cleaned every day. 
      • Cleaning the litter box could make you susceptible to illness, particularly when your immune system is low. Ask your doctor if using rubber gloves would eliminate the risk. If so, be sure that you wash the gloves regularly and that you disinfect them. If not, ask someone else to empty the litter box for you. (If you cover inside of the the litter box with a large plastic bag with the litter clay sitting on the bag, you can remove the used litter without touching it or even being near it.)
    • Don't touch pet feces with your hands. If you do, don't touch your fingers to your mouth. Wash well immediately afterward.
  • Do not kiss your pet. Even though your pet is family, keep your lips from your pet's mouth to prevent germs from being passed your way.
  • Don't let a pet lick an open wound or in or around your mouth.
  • Take bites and scratches on your pet seriously. 
    • Clean them thoroughly and apply a disinfectant. 
    • If irritation occurs, consult with your veternarian.
  • Regularly apply or give medicines to protect against ticks, fleas and mosquitoes.
  • If you garden:
    • Avoid bare-skin contact with soil where dogs may have defecated.
    • If there are raccoons in the neighborhood, wear gloves when working the soil or a habitat shared with raccoons.
  • Avoid swimming or wating in water that may be contaminated with animal urine.
  • If you have a bird, use extreme care in handling any pet bird which shows signs of respiratory illness.
  • If bitten or scratched by any animal, wash the area with soap and water and seek medical attention if a fever develops or the area begins to swell.

If you have HIV/AIDS and/or a lowered immune system, the Humane Society of the United States recommends:

  • Wash your hands after handling or touching a pet.
  • Wear rubber gloves when changing a litter box or cleaning up after a pet, and wash your hands afterwards.
  • Keep your pet's nails short to minimize scratches.
  • Keep your pet indoors and use a leash outdoors to prevent your pet from hunting, scavenging, fighting, and engaging in other activities that include exposure to other animals and disease.
  • Feed your pet commercial pet food. Do not feed your pet raw meat or allow it to eat the stool of other animals.
  • Keep your pet's living and feeding areas clean.
  • Keep your pet's vaccinations up to date.
  • HIV-positive pet owners should make sure their pets have up-to-date immunizations, attend regular veterinary check-ups, and receive suggested worm and insect medications. Maintaining the health of a pet decreases the chances of the animal passing bacteria, viruses, or other parasites that can cause opportunistic infections, or infections that do not usually develop in individuals with healthy immune systems,
  • Immediately seek veterinary care for a sick pet.

NOTE: HIV cannot be transmitted from an animal to a human. Similarly, the virus cannot be transmitted from an HIV-positive individual to his or her pet.

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