Health Risks of Pet Owners and Some Awareness

Health Risks of Pet Owners and Some Awareness

Pets generally seem to provide their owners with non-trivial health benefits; keeping pets has been shown to help remove stress.Walking a dog can also provide the animal and its owner with exercise, fresh air, and social interaction.Pets can be great friends.Some animal welfare organisations have proposed that the term "companion animal" be used instead of "pet".The term "pet" may also be applied to humans, usually in an endearing way by a lover, significant other, or partner. Calling another person a pet, though, can just as easily be considered an insult.

But, like people, pets can carry infections, and sometimes these can be transmitted to people. Keep reading to find out how you and your pet can stay infection free.Some illnesses that pets get — such as feline leukemia, FIV, and heartworms - can't be transmitted to people. But pets can carry certain bacteria, viruses, parasites, and fungi that can transmit infections to people. Infections from animals can be particularly dangerous to babies and young kids, pregnant women, elderly people, and people whose immune systems have been weakened by illness or disease (such as cancer or AIDS).

While research has suggested that pets can offer people health benefits, a new study from Finland finds that pet owners tend to be heavier, less active and in poorer health than those without a pet.

However, that doesn't mean pets are bad for us, the researchers note. Rather, people most likely to have a pet, such as middle-aged and home-owners, also tend to be more sedentary and thicker around the middle.

Researchers at the University of Turku in Finland report the findings in PLoS ONE, an online journal published by the Public Library of Science.

A number of studies have suggested that certain people benefit from living with a dog or cat -- a pet may help lower blood pressure and heart rate, for example, or ease stress, loneliness and even dementia-related agitation in the elderly.

But whether pet owners as a group are a healthier lot has been unclear. The new findings suggest they're not.

Using survey data from more than 21,000 young to middle-aged Finnish adults, researchers found that pet owners were generally more likely to be overweight and to view their own health as poor.

This was largely because pet owners tended to be middle-aged, have less education and more health-risk factors, explained Dr. Leena K. Koivusilta, the study's lead author.

And despite having Fido to take for walks, even dog owners typically got little exercise.

This is likely because they were often home-owners who could simply put the dog in the yard, Koivusilta noted.

The fact that pet owners were in poorer health does not mean that furry companions aren't a health boon in some cases, she told Reuters Health.

"In my opinion," Koivusilta said, "pets provide us all with a vast potential for health promotion, and this has indeed been shown when some special groups have been studied."

Pet owners, according to the researchers, may just need to make more of an effort -- such as walking and playing with the dog instead of showing him the way to the yard.

There are some specific health awareness for pet owners ; given below:

Dogs can transmit "kennel cough" to immunocompromised humans. Try to avoid placing your dog in a boarding kennel or other high risk environments.

Keep your pet's nails short or declaw the animal to reduce the risk of infection caused by animal scratches. Cats are capable of transmitting B. henselae , the organism responsible for cat scratch disease.

Having a pet allergy — whether to dogs or cats, or even to hamsters or birds — is fairly common.You may be surprised to learn that in most cases it's not your pet's fur or feathers that cause the allergic reaction. Instead, it's the small, invisible flakes of animal skin (dander) that trigger the itchy, watery eyes, sneezing and stuffy nose in people with a pet allergy. Less frequently, pet saliva may cause an allergic reaction in some people.

Take measures to prevent flea or tick infestations. Several zoonotic infections are transmitted by fleas and ticks.

Do not adopt wild or exotic animals. These animals are more likely to bite, and they often carry rare, yet serious diseases

Animals can contract zoonotic infections from undercooked or raw meat or eggs. Also, do not let your pet drink from the toilet because several zoonotic infections can be contracted this way. Cats can contract infections (such as toxoplasmosis) by eating wild animals.

If you own a cat, have it tested for feline leukemia virus (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV). Although these viruses are not transmitted to humans, they do affect the cat's immune system, putting you and your cat at risk for other infections that may be transmitted to humans.

Immunocompromised people (people infected with HIV, or who have other conditions that suppress the immune system such as chronic renal failure, alcoholism, cirrhosis, diabetes, cancer, leukemia, transplant recipients, splenectomy, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or high doses of steroids) are often advised to give up their pets to avoid contracting various diseases from them. It is very important for such people and their families to be aware of the potential risk for zoonotic infection (diseases that can be passed from animals to humans).

Never keep wild animals as pets. For example, ferrets have disfigured the faces of young children with their bites.

Cryptococcosis (pronounced: krip-tuh-kah-koe-sus) is one infection that people may get from birds. People who inhale organisms found in bird droppings, especially from pigeons, may get this disease.

Psittacosis (pronounced: sih-tuh-ko-sus), also known as parrot fever, is passed to people when they have contact with infected bird feces or with infected dust in birdcages.

Pets are popular. As many as six in 10 families in the United States have some type of pet.For some people, pets can be real lifesavers: companion animals help the blind and people with certain health conditions to live fulfilling lives.It's important to choose the right pet for you — and to consider your health needs.

As in all things, washing your hands often — especially after you touch, feed, or clean up after a pet — is the best way to keep yourself healthy and prevent the spread of infection. Use warm, soapy water and be sure to scrub under your fingernails every time you wash. In addition to washing afterward, you can protect your health even further by wearing gloves while cleaning animal cages or cat litter boxes. And if you wash your pet in the kitchen sink or bathtub, always disinfect it with bleach immediately afterward (the sink or tub, that is, not the pet!).


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