Owning a dog can be beneficial to our health in many ways, and improve our lives immeasurably. They give us a reason to take more exercise, they encourage us to be more social around the neighborhood. Many studies have shown that owning a dog can help to lower blood pressure as well as reducing stress and anxiety.
Most common diseases that affect domestic dogs, such as distemper, canine parvovirus, or heartworms, cannot be spread to humans. However, there are certain viruses, parasites, bacteria, and fungi that can be passed on from dogs, so it’s essential to take sensible precautions to avoid any risks. Here are a few common-sense suggestions to help you (and your pet) stay safe and healthy.
This is the first golden rule. After touching or petting your dog, it’s always a good idea to wash your hands in warm soapy water and dry them thoroughly to remove any bacteria which may be lurking in your dog’s coat. If that’s not possible, use hand sanitizer, which most of us are carrying these days.
It’s natural to want to show affection to your pet, but kissing isn’t the right way to do it. First of all, dogs won’t recognize your kisses as a sign of love. Next, you’ll be transferring any harmful bacteria from his coat, not to your hands, but actually onto your lips, from where it’s almost certain to be ingested.
Many dog owners are convinced that, when their dog licks their face, they are being ‘kissed’. Although this can be a sign of affection, licking your face and particularly around your mouth can be a signal that they want food. Although in a healthy person, there’s not a great deal of risk, because saliva won’t be absorbed through unbroken skin, if you do have any open cuts or scratches, this could lead to an unpleasant infection.
To break yourself of this kissing habit, just remind yourself that before your pet was showering you with affection by licking you, it was probably using its tongue to clean its anus. That should do the trick!
Another way that humans tend to show affection is by sharing food. What harm could there be in breaking off a piece of your tasty sandwich and sharing it with your pet? Well, if your hand comes into contact with his saliva, then returns to hold the bread- a perfect way for you to ingest harmful bacteria. Place all the food that your dog eats into a clean feeding bowl – don’t let him or her get into the habit of snatching food from your hand.
These days, many dog owners prefer to prepare their dog’s food themselves, rather than buy a commercial brand. There’s a school of thought that claims that raw food is in a more natural and therefore, healthier state. However, according to a review of the evidence, published in the Journal of Medicine and Life, feeding dogs raw food, including meat and eggs, can make them more susceptible to bacterial infections such as campylobacter and salmonella. As well as producing sickness and unpleasant colitis in dogs, these infections can then be spread to humans via feces. The authors of the study recommend that all food consumed by dogs should be treated/cooked to remove potential contaminants.
Although you undoubtedly provide your dog with a supply of clean water, some dogs like to drink from alternative sources, such as toilet bowls. Bacteria and viruses can be picked up via human feces, urine, and saliva, traces of which may be present in the water.
Likewise, food items found on the street and in trash cans, no matter how disgusting they seem to us, can hold an extraordinary appeal for some dogs. Don’t allow your pet to pick up food from unknown sources – it can contain harmful bacteria, fungi, and parasites, which, in turn, may be excreted in the feces and pose a health risk to anyone coming into contact with it.
Although bathing your dog to keep his coat clean and healthy is part of good care, this shouldn’t be done in the bathtub or sinks used by the family. Dogs can carry several parasites, such as the infected ticks responsible for Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, which you don’t need hiding around your bathroom. Bathe your dog outside, taking care to rinse away all debris and dirty water, thoroughly. If this isn’t an option, use a professional dog grooming service or visit an outdoor canine washing facility.
Ringworm is an unpleasant fungal infection, characterized by a circular red rash, with a smooth area in the center. It’s transmitted by skin-to-skin contact. Although it can be treated with anti-fungal shampoos, creams, and oral medications, it’s obviously better to avoid infection. Check your dog’s skin regularly, and, at the first sign, ensure that your family avoids contact with your pet. Consult a veterinarian for treatment.
Picking up your dog’s poop and disposing of it responsibly is a no-brainer. It can be a source of serious infections such as toxocariasis and campylobacter if touched. For these reasons, it’s also essential to monitor kids, especially the under 5s, if they’re in areas, such as public parks or even beaches where dog poop may be present.
Ticks don’t only irritate your dog, they can also spread potentially life-changing diseases such as Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and tularemia. Prevent these issues before they start by using speaking to your veterinarian about the most effective tick and flea protection for your particular area.
Finally, although rabies is extremely rare in the USA, it’s not the only reason that you should seek medical assistance if you suffer a dog bite or even scratches that break the skin. Clean, disinfect, and cover the wound immediately and consult a physician who may prescribe a course of antibiotics as a precaution against infection.