What’s not to love about an adorable, wriggling puppy covering your face in wet kisses?
Unfortunately, lots of things. Dog and cat licks can cause a number of health problems for the people they share their saliva with.
Illnesses you could contract from your pets, called zoonotic illnesses, include hookworms, tapeworms, roundworms, diarrhea, salmonella and toxoplasmosis. The good news is that getting a disease from your pet is not a common occurrence and there are precautions you can take to avoid getting ill.
How can this happen? It seems that our pets often have hygiene habits that can transfer bacteria and other nasty things into their mouths. You’ve all seen how and where your pets lick themselves and you’ve watched dogs greet each other by posterior sniffing. And cats are constantly cleaning themselves – leaving no body parts untouched. Pet feces is a problem —so are all the gross things your pets might like nibble on or actually eat.
Animal feces can contain lots of disgusting things like worm eggs and worm spores. Dog and cat licks can also contain the eggs and spores along with illness-causing bacteria. People most at risk of getting sick from animals are those with a weakened immune system, frail elderly people, pregnant women and young children.
An easy precaution you and your family can take is to not let your pets lick you, especially on your mouth, nose or on an open wound. And if they do share kisses with you, make sure you wash that area.
An important safeguard is to make sure your pets receive regular veterinary care including deworming and vaccinations. This will go a long way in keeping both you and your pets healthy.
While there are serious illnesses you can get from your pets, the benefits of having these animals in your life can far outweigh any risks of illness. Being a responsible pet parent and taking simple precautions can ensure that you, your family, and your pets stay well.
Be sure to have your pet regularly examined by a licensed veterinarian and keep up-to-date on all animal immunizations. To check a veterinarian’s license, go to the Veterinary Medical Board’s website.