With Proper Care, Your Pet Can Be a Healthy Member of Your Family
Pets make wonderful companions for both adults and children. They can build responsibility in children, and teach children to have compassion. However, as wonderful as it is to have pets in your home, they can also make you sick. Children, in particular may be vulnerable, because they do not always use care when handling the animals. What are some things you can do to help your child have a wonderful relationship with a pet, while protecting them from some of the animal-borne illnesses?
Choose pets carefully
Young children should not handle frogs, reptiles, turtles or similar animals. These animals carry illnesses that can have a negative affect on your child's health.
Pregnant women should not handle rodents because they can cause a disease called lymphocytic choriomeningitis which can cause birth defects. Pregnant women can also get toxoplasmosis from cats, so they should avoid cleaning their cat's litter box. In general, it is probably a good idea for pregnant women to leave animal care to someone else.
Think about your lifestyle when selecting a pet
Is your family prepared to do a good job taking care of a pet? Before you purchase any animal, there are a few questions you need to consider. How much care is this pet going to need? Are you and your children prepared to feed, groom and clean-up after the pet? Can you afford to take them regularly to a vet and get their shots?
How are you going to dispose of the animal waste? You do not want your children running barefoot in the same yard where animals may be defecating. The animal feces could pass roundworms and hookworms on to your child. Keep sandboxes where your children play covered, so that cats don't use them as litter boxes.
Teach Your Children to Wash their Hands After Handling Animals
Hand washing is important in many situations, not only when caring for pets. However, it is especially important to teach your child to wash their hands after handling any animal. In fact, this is a good lesson for all of us. I go horse back riding every weekend, and the first thing I do when I am finished riding is wash my hands. Many animals, including dogs, cats, reptiles, rodents and birds, carry germs that can be picked up by humans. You should also wash your hands after feeding your pet. Commercial pet food can be contaminated with germs, too.
Take Your Pet to the Vet
Animals will be healthier and less of a danger to your family if they get regular vaccinations, and are de-wormed, as appropriate. It is also good to control fleas and ticks, both for your pet's health and safety, as well as your own. Ticks carry serious diseases such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Fleas have been known to carry the plague.
One of the most important vaccinations your pet will need is the rabies vaccine. If your pet gets rabies, they could pass it to a family member before you realize that your pet has this deadly disease. While you may think it is unlikely that your pet could get rabies, if they tend to catch small rodents or are likely to sniff around a dead animal, like a bat, that they might encounter, then they are more vulnerable to rabies than you may realize.
Avoid Wild Animals
Children should be taught that wild animals are best left alone. It is better for the animal, and better for the child. They should also be taught to avoid touching dead animals. A few children have been exposed to rabies because they handled dead bats. This, of course, can have tragic consequences, especially since children often do not tell anyone they touched a bat until they are sick ... and then it may be to late to save them.
The healthier your pet is, the healthier the members of your family are likely to be. By taking these few simple precautions, you can enjoy all the health benefits of owning a pet, without putting you or your children in danger!
If you love animals, you may also want to read:
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