Minimizing health risks associated with domestic pets
Diseases contracted from pets are uncommon. However, animals can cause allergies, and infections and infestations with microorganisms, worms, or insects may spread to people. Pets such as dogs can bite; they should never be left alone with young children. Exotic pets may also pose health hazards. For example, tarantula hairs can cause eye damage.
Check cats and dogs regularly for ticks. If your pet scratches more than usual or develops bald patches, consult your veterinary surgeon in case your pet has a fungal infection, such as ringworm, that could infect you.
Cat and dog faeces contain a number of dangerous organisms, such as the eggs of the toxocara worm. If ingested, these worm eggs may cause toxocariasis, a potentially serious disease that may lead to blindness. Cat faeces may also contain toxoplasma protozoa. Pregnant women in particular should avoid contact with cat faeces, because toxoplasmosis may cause serious harm to the developing fetus. Deworm pets regularly and dispose of their faeces hygienically. Teach children to wash their hands after touching animals.
From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.