Many diseases can be spread to people from pets. At the Manchester Animal Hospital our staff is trained how to keep pets from contracting diseases in our hospital. Here are five ways you can decrease the risk of disease transmission at home, so you can protect your pets and your human family members. These steps are especially important for ourselves during the Covid-19 pandemic.
1. Wash your hands
Handwashing (sanitizing works, too!) is vital in preventing disease from spreading. Always wash or sanitize your hands after:
- Handling pet food or treats (dry, canned, and especially raw)? People—especially the young, old, or immunocompromised—can get sick from the bacteria found on or in pet food and treats
- Changing cat litter or cleaning the fish tank. Feces can contain germs that can make people sick
- Petting pets (especially chickens, reptiles, and farm animals). One word: Salmonella
2. Pay attention to how you’re washing your hands
Wash your hands using soap and warm water, or sanitize using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Be thorough—the areas most often missed are the thumbs, fingertips, and between the fingers.
3. Get coughing pets checked out as soon as possible
Coughing is not normal for dogs or cats. Coughing dogs could be suffering from:
- Canine influenza
- Canine infectious respiratory disease, which can be caused by several organisms that can be prevented by vaccines, like Bordetella and parainfluenza virus, as well as other organisms for which there are no vaccines
- Heart failure
- Heartworm disease
A coughing cat isn’t always struggling with a hairball. Unless a hairball actually comes up, your cat’s coughing might be a sign of:
4. Protect your pets against disease
- Vaccinate appropriately based on your pet’s lifestyle and environment
- Use veterinary-recommended flea-, tick-, and intestinal parasite–preventive medications
- Talk to your veterinarian about how to prevent infections from wildlife or other animals
- Avoid putting your pet in a situation where she could be bitten by another animal
Prevent your pet from ingesting rotten food, contaminated water, or soil that could contain bacteria, viruses, or parasites from other animals
- Learn the common signs of fear and anxiety in dogs and cats
- Don’t allow your dog or cat to roam freely without supervision
- Consult with professionals to humanely remove wildlife (like rodents, bats, reptiles, etc.) from your home
- Keep your pet away from wild animals that may carry diseases, such as foxes, racoons, and skunks
- Keep garbage cans covered tightly
- Don’t allow pets to drink out of community water bowls
- Avoid feeding your pet a raw-meat diet
5. Use antibiotics appropriately to prevent antibiotic resistance
Always finish the complete course of antibiotics your veterinarian prescribes your pet. If you stop treatment before directed, the bacteria in and around your pet could develop resistance against antibiotics. Also, only give prescription antibiotics to the pet to whom they were prescribed.
Dr. Lamb is the Veterinarian at the Manchester Animal Hospital.