How to Minimize the Risk of Infections Spread by Pets

How to keep pets from spreading infections.

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Pets can bring joy to you and your family, but they can also bring infections if you’re not careful. Those with weakened immune systems, young children, seniors and pregnant women can be especially vulnerable.

Here are 14 cleaning tips every dog or cat owner should know.

Dogs, cats, reptiles, rodents and amphibians can all transmit salmonella to humans. These animals can also spread multidrug-resistant bacteria, parasites and fungal diseases, according to the Canadian Medical Association Journal. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report pet birds can also make you sick, as they can spread fungal and bacterial diseases.

Prevent the Spread of Disease

For most people, the risk of infection from a pet is small. However, there are some things you can do to help prevent the spread of infection from your pet. The Canadian Medical Association Journal recommends the following:

  1. Wash your hands after contact with any pet.
  2. Discourage pets from licking your face.
  3. Wear protective gloves to clean cages and aquariums. Clean cages and aquariums regularly.
  4. Avoid contact with exotic animals.
  5. If you have a sandbox in your yard, cover it when it’s not in use.
  6. Clean cat liter boxes daily and keep them away from areas where food is prepared.
  7. Pick up dog feces as soon as possible.
  8. Clean pet bedding and feeding areas regularly.
  9. If you’re looking for a new pet, make sure everyone in your home is healthy before bringing a new pet home.
  10. Schedule regular veterinary appointments for your pets.
  11. Avoid contact with dogs and cats less than 6 months of age or stray animals, especially if you have someone in your home with a compromised immune system or a young child.
  12. Avoid contact with animals with diarrhea.
  13. Reptiles, amphibians, rodents and baby poultry should not be allowed to roam freely inside a home.
  14. Exercise caution when playing with cats to limit scratches; keep cats’ nails short (declawing is not recommended).
  15. When visiting other households or locations with pets, take the same precautions.

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Rachel Brougham
Rachel Brougham lived through a major home renovation in 2019, knows the ups and downs of home improvement, and loves sharing tips with readers. A veteran journalist of both print and television, she’s won several awards for her writing and has covered everything from the environment and education to health care, politics and food. She’s written for several publications beyond newspapers including Bob Vila, Taste of Home and Minnesota Parent, and she currently writes a weekly syndicated newspaper column. Her memoir, Widowland, about the sudden loss of her husband, was published in 2022. She specializes in everything from home decor and design to lawn and garden, product reviews and pet care. When she’s not writing, you can usually find her tending to her garden (both vegetables and native plants), playing with her dog, watching sports with her family or getting some exercise. A native of Michigan, she currently lives in Minneapolis. An avid user of Instagram, you can follow her @RachBrougham.