Keep your Family Healthy by Keeping your Pet Healthy

Orlando, FL As responsible parents, we do everything in our power to keep our families safe and healthy. The question is: are we considering our pets and the risks they might pose to the health of our family?

Pets greatly enhance our lives; however the pleasures of pet ownership come with some inherent risks. Probably the most unknown and unaccounted risk with regards to our pets, is their ability to get us sick. I am sure you have heard about allergic reactions and such, however, do you know that some pets carry parasites that are easily transmitted to humans? These are called “zoonotic” parasites and can be acquired from soil contaminated with your pet’s feces. Children are particularly vulnerable to this type of parasite for multiple reasons. First, as toddlers, they tend to spend a lot of time on the floor and they also tend to put everything they find in the mouths. This creates a great opportunity for these parasites to enter your kid’s system. As a result your child can develop infection, suffer damage to the lungs and liver, asthma and/or visual loss.

Keeping your household safe starts with keeping your pets healthy: 1. Take your pets to your veterinarian regularly and have them test for parasites at least annually. 2. De-worm your pet as per your veterinarian’s recommendation. 3. Keep your pets in year-round parasite prevention medication. 4. Make sure to clean the yard and pick up pets’ feces daily, particularly in “play” areas.

Other tips include: 1. Making sure your kids wash their hands after playing in the yard or with any pet. 2. Covering sand boxes and play areas to prevent wildlife and strays from contaminating them. 3. Prevent your kids from eating dirt or any food that may have fallen to the ground (easier said than done!) 4. In case of suspected contamination, ask your physician to test you family members for any possible parasites.

Most of our pets are infected with parasites at some point in their lives, creating a real risk of having some cross contamination with kids and other members of our family. It is imperative that we work together with our Health care professionals both on the animal and human side, to increase awareness of this very real possibility and to make an effort to protect our families accordingly.

Pets are an important part of the family circle, and the benefits of responsible pet ownership far outweigh the risks. And remember, when it comes to Zoonotic parasites, keeping your pets healthy is the first step in keeping your family healthy!

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