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How Can You Keep Your Pet Healthy?

Owning a pet can be a rewarding experience

for children and adults. And you can make sure it’s a healthy experience by following a few simple tips. It all starts with keeping your pet healthy and being a responsible pet owner.

How can you keep your pet healthy?

  • Adopt your pet from an animal shelter or purchase it from a reputable pet store or breeder.
  • Have your new companion checked out right away by a veterinarian.
  • Keep your pet under a veterinarian’s care for regularly scheduled shots and treatment for worms. This reduces the chance that your pet could get sick and pass an infection to you or your family. Since the cost of veterinary care may not be within everyone’s reach, the local animal shelter or humane society may have information about low-cost clinics.
  • Give your pet a balanced diet and do not allow it to eat raw food or drink out of the toilet.
  • Clean your pet’s living area at least once a week. Bury the feces, or place them in a plastic bag and then put it in the trash.
  • Litter boxes should be cleaned daily and the dirty litter placed in a plastic bag. To prevent infectious diseases that may cause birth defects, pregnant women should not change cat litter boxes. A child’s sandbox can become a cat’s litter box so cover it when not in use. Areas that have been contaminated with dog or cat feces should be off limits to children — not only at home but also in public areas such as parks or playgrounds. And because toddlers naturally explore their environment, teach children not to eat dirt
  • Wash your hands with soap and water after handling or cleaning up after animals, especially reptiles. Teach your children to do the same. This is also important after contacting dirt because hookworms from animal feces in the soil can enter through your skin.

What about having a wild animal as a pet?
In general, wild animals do not make good pets because they are not tame and do not adapt well to living in a house. But if you must have one make sure you know about any special needs the animal has or diseases it can transmit before buying it from a pet store.

What’s the most serious disease that animals can transmit to people?
The most serious disease that animals can transmit to people is rabies. But, because responsible pet owners are keeping their animals immunized each year, the number of rabies cases in the United States has been drastically reduced. However, rabies is still found in wild animals. Cats, as well as dogs, should be immunized against rabies.

Why should you have your pet immunized against rabies?

Having your pet immunized protects it against rabies if it’s attacked by a rabid animal. But if your pet is not immunized, it could get rabies and then give it to you or your family. So obey local leash laws and control your pets so that they do not come into contact with, or prey on, wild animals.

What should you do if you are bitten or scratched by an animal?
Each year almost 800,000 persons bitten by dogs or cats require medical attention. So, never approach an unfamiliar animal. If you do get bitten or scratched always

  • Wash the area with soap and water,
  • Apply anti-bacterial medication, and
  • Bandage the wound, and consider medical attention.
  • Teach your children to tell you about any animal bite or scratch that
    they receive.

Basically, you and your pets need to avoid contact with rodents and other wild animals because they can carry some very deadly diseases.

For example:

  • Rodents can transmit hantavirus and plague.
  • Ticks can transmit Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Lyme disease.
  • Mammals such as raccoons, skunks, and foxes can transmit rabies.
    In fact, bats cause most of the human rabies cases in this country.

When are most wild animals active?
Most wild animals come out at night and are afraid of people. So, if you see a wild animal during the day, you should avoid having contact with it and notify animal control authorities because it may have rabies.

How can you discourage animals from nesting in your house?

  • Keep your home clean.
  • At night when insects, rodents and other animals search for food, keep tight-fitting lids on food containers and on the garbage containers.
  • Discard any excess food and take up pet water bowls when not in use.

How can you discourage animals from entering your house?
The closer wild animals live to your house, the more likely they are to find a way inside.

  • Eliminate any possible nesting sites and items that provide a water source.
  • Seal entrances on the inside and the outside of your home because a mouse can squeeze through an opening as small as a dime.
  • One pair of mice can produce over 15,000 offspring a year. You can keep rodent populations low by continually setting traps inside and outside your home.
  • Keep baits and traps out of reach of children and pets.
  • Natural predators also help control rodent populations in the wild.

What should you do if you find a dead animal?

  • If you find a dead animal, spray it and any nesting materials with disinfectant before moving it. This reduces the risk of exposure to deadly viruses.
  • Use protective measures when moving the carcass and dispose of the animal according to local regulations.
  • Remember to wash your hands afterwards.
  • If your home is infested with rodents, contact animal control authorities.

What precautions should you take against ticks and mosquitos?

In wooded areas and high grass, take extra precautions against ticks and mosquitos.

  • It helps to wear light-colored clothing that covers as much exposed skin as possible.
  • Use an insect repellent containing DEET.
  • Carefully check yourself and your family for ticks. Use tweezers to remove them.

What should you do if you are bitten or scratched by a wild animal?

  • Apply first aid treatment as quickly as possible, and
  • Immediately notify your health care provider.

Wild animals can carry fatal diseases and we have to keep them out of our homes. But we also need to take certain precautions with those endearing pets that we enjoy close at hand.

Used with permission from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

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