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Pets & Disease

Pets are loved for the companionship and comfort they provide. It’s a well-established fact that your pet actually provides health benefits to you. They can help to decrease blood pressure and cholesterol, help you not to feel so lonely and provide ample opportunities for exercise, enjoying the outdoors and socialization. What you may not be aware of are the not-so-great things you pet is bringing home and the health risks they can pose to you and your family. There are some diseases that can spread easily from pets to humans, and if you have a small child under 5 or someone in your home with a weakened immune system you need to be even more aware of this. Here is an overview of some of the diseases and infections that your pet can bring in to your home.

Rabies

Everyone has seen or read Cujo, and (spoiler!) who didn’t cry watching Old Yeller? Rabies is a disease that tends to get a lot of mainstream attention and is probably something you’re already aware of. This disease is found mostly among populations of wild animals such as raccoons, skunks, bats and foxes. Your concern lies in the fact that the disease can be spread to your domesticated pet through the saliva of a wild animal should they come into contact. You may think that this is an issue for your family dog, but CDC data shows that cats are actually three times more likely to introduce rabies into your home than a dog.

The symptoms of rabies for humans are:

  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Confusion
  • Sleepiness
  • Agitation
  • Death if untreated

So, rabies is a disease that can kill and will make you or your loved one extremely ill before it ends up killing you, which is why it is important to remain diligent in prevention.

You can help prevent rabies by:

  • Keeping your pets away from wild animals.
  • Vaccinate your pets against rabies.

In humans, getting vaccinated as soon as possible to exposure is key in surviving it. Once rabies starts to have a neurologic impact on an infected human it is more than likely going to kill them. In fact, only one in five humans will survive an established rabies infection.

If you think an animal in your area has rabies, contact pest control right away. If you or your pet has come into contact with an animal with rabies, seek veterinary or medical attention right away.

Salmonella

Salmonella is most well-known as a food borne illness, but it can be spread to humans through their pets too. Salmonella is a bacterium that lives in the intestinal tract and if you come into contact with the fur, feathers or scales of an animal that has been contaminated by their feces you may be opening yourself up to contracting salmonella.

Not all pets are created equal when it comes to Salmonella, however. Reptiles, birds and rodents tend to pass salmonella to their humans more easily than other animals. Infected animals may not even look sick to you, either.

Symptoms in humans of a salmonella infection include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever

Very young children and those with compromised immune systems are at the greatest risk for having serious complications from a salmonella infection which include:

  • Dehydration
  • Meningitis
  • Sepsis (overwhelming blood infection)

You can help prevent the spread of salmonella from your pets by:

  • Washing your hands after handling pets – especially those that have a higher risk of transmission.

Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis

This is a virus that can be transmitted to humans through coming in contact with particles from the urine, feces or saliva of mice, hamsters and guinea pigs – popular household pets. The symptoms of this virus include flu-like symptoms such as:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle aches
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Eventually meningitis and encephalitis can occur. Those symptoms include:

  • Headaches
  • Neck stiffness
  • Confusion
  • Mental status changes

What is dangerous about this virus is that it can be transferred from a pregnant woman to the baby she is carrying, and that is quite dangerous. In most people, however, the symptoms will resolve on their own just as with any other virus. But, you should take precautions to ensure that you don’t expose yourself to this virus. If you own rodents as pets you need to:

  • Wash your hands after handling your pet.
  • Keep your pet’s cage clean
  • Do not kiss the animals

If you notice signs of a rodent infestation in your home it’s very important to call a pest control service right away!

Cryptococcosis

If you’re a bird lover then you need to know about this fungus among us. Though this fungus can normally be found in soil around the globe it is also present in bird droppings. You contract this fungus by inhaling bird droppings. This fungus will cause pneumonia-like symptoms including:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Coughing
  • Fever

If you or someone in the home has a weakened immune system then they are at an increased risk of developing health complications from the fungus. This fungus can eventually cause very serious complications such as:

  • Meningitis
  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Change in mental status

To keep your exposure to the fungus as low as possible you should:

  • Take care when cleaning bird cages so you don’t debris is not kicked up into the air.
  • Keep your birds in a room that has good ventilation.
  • Wear a mask when cleaning your bird’s cage

If you have a pigeon infestation in your attic, then you should contact a pest control service to get rid of them and then clean the area well to get rid of bird droppings.

Pets are great and provide a lot of love to their owners, but as a responsible pet owner you should educate yourself about potential risks that your pets may pose. If you have wild animals on your property or in your home, it’s always a good idea to contact pest control to find out your options.

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