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Just what diseases can you catch from your pets?

A recent disease linked to puppies sold at Petland, a nationwide chain, made 55 people sick and hospitalized 13 according to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).  Since the outbreak last month, the disease spread to 12 states including Missouri. Though, it’s unusual to see this type of outbreak, it got us thinking what else can we catch from our pets?  Dr. Aaron Mccauley from McCauley Animal Clinic says, “The list is really long. It covers a whole stratum of different organisms from viruses to bacteria like Campylobacter and Salmonella like people have heard before, E. coli, and there are fungal organisms, like ringworm and ultimately viruses as well that can affect people.”

How do you know if your pet is the one who got you sick? “A lot of the symptoms will be the same. So, an animal with a diarrheal illness followed by a person with a diarrheal illness or a skin rash on a pet and then a skin rash on a person or fever, chills just general symptoms of illness,” says Dr. Stephen Sanders with Mercy Clinic.   He also says some people are at higher risk like young people, pregnant women and people with any sort of immune deficiency which is common now with HIV, chemotherapy and all sorts of medicines, according to Dr. Sanders.

Dr. McCauley also says Toxoplasma is a cat parasite that can pass to a woman during pregnancy and can cause fetal abnormalities. He suggests another member of the household clean out litter boxes if you’re pregnant.  Both doctors Sanders and McCauley say the best precaution against illnesses spreading is basic hand washing with soap and water after handling a pet, or being in contact with an area where a pet has gone to the bathroom.

The good news in all of this, is the bark is really worse than the bite when it comes to catching diseases from your pets.  Dr. McCauley says, “The bond between us and our pets should be strong, it’s not something where any of us are advocating that we can’t let our dogs kiss us in the face, and hug with them and sleep with them.” As a matter of fact, studies have shown numerous health benefits to owning a pet including a decrease in blood pressure, cholesterol levels and they help you stay more fit by walking them.

Both Dr. Sanders and Dr. McCauley say the best thing you can do is work with your veterinarian to keep your pets healthy.  Because a healthy pet will also keep us healthy.