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5 Ways Your Pet Could Make You Sick

While the health benefits outweigh the cons of owning a pet, there are still risks involved when keeping a domesticated animal at home.

1. Bacteria

“Bacteria and organisms in feces can get on our hands and, through day-to-day living, can inadvertently get in our mouths,” Korin Miller reported in Men’s Health. You may not be directly touching the poop, but your dog or cat’s butt rubs on your lap, couch, or just about anywhere Fluffy sits. Even fleas have poop that spreads germs. Your cat’s favorite activities, licking and scratching, can potentially give you Bartonella, a bacterium that causes fever and swollen lymph nodes. Birds are also potential culprits of bacterium that can cause parrot fever. [source: CNN]

How to cope: You and your pet should observe proper hygiene. Ask your veterinarian for advice on how to properly bathe your pet and how often. If your pet is the type that lives in a cage or container, use a mask and gloves when taking out the droppings and cleaning the area. As for you and other members of your household, observe rigorous hand washing, especially after handling your pet. Keep your house clean and disinfected to prevent the spread of bacteria. If your pet stays in your room, wash your beddings and your pet’s beddings once or twice a month in hot water—separately, of course.


2. Parasites

It’s not just rabies you have to worry about. Ringworm and roundworm are contagious intestinal parasites you can get from dogs and cats, among many other types of worms potentially found in animals [source: Prevention]. There are other diarrhea-causing parasites found in common pets, such as cats, dogs, birds, rabbits, and horses. As for reptiles such as turtles, Prevention reports that between 77 to 90% of reptiles harbor salmonella.

How to cope: Make sure your pet sees a vet regularly for checkups, deworming, and vaccinations. Keep a medical record of your pet and follow the vaccination and checkup schedule.

3. Allergies

Studies show that exposure to pet dander in infanthood to childhood can prevent future allergies, but if you’ve already developed animal allergy in your adult years, being exposed to furry pets can trigger allergic reactions, such as watery eyes, a runny nose, and hives [via WebMD]. “Many people opt to own pets anyway, enduring wheezing, sneezing, and scratching to be with their fur balls,” Dr. Marty Becker wrote in

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How to cope: If you have an existing allergy, consult an allergist who openly works with pet lovers that want to keep their pets [via Vetstreet]. See if your allergy is treatable with shots or medications, and research on ways to manage having a pet in the house despite having mild to moderate allergy.

4. Sleep Deprivation

A study by Mayo Clinic finds an increasing number of people experiencing sleep disturbances because of their pets. From parrots that squawk at wee hours of the morning to cats that like to run and scratch across the room at night, it is possible for your beloved pet to disrupt your sleeping patterns.

How to cope: Vetstreet suggests training your pet to have a regular sleep schedule. Give your pet an enriched environment full of daily activities to lessen hyperactivity at night. A dog that has worn out his energy in afternoon playtime is less likely to be active at night, while a cat that is fed at nighttime will be more likely to snooze than run around after a full meal.


5. Accidental injuries

A UK hospital reported that they treat more than 200 dog-related injuries a year. Many dog owners don’t know how to walk their dogs properly and succumb to leash-pulling, tripping, and other related accidents. And it’s not just dogs. Owners of pocket pets, like hamsters and mice, can get bites and small injuries when mishandling their pets.

How to cope: Research about your pet. Whether you’re getting a friendly Golden Retriever or a hedgehog, read as much as you can about animal behavior. Ask other pet owners about the precautions and expectations of the kind of pet you’re eyeing. Even if you’ve had your pet for months to years, keep yourself updated by subscribing to pet publications to help you manage and discipline your pet.

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