We’ve talked before about how pets can aggravate your seasonal allergies. But did you know that they’re also introducing various germs and bacteria to the inside of your home? It’s not your furry friend’s fault; it’s the nature of being an animal. Still, it helps to know what these germs are, how they get on your pet, and what you can do about them.
What Germs Do Pets Bring Inside?
Your Pet’s Mouth Isn’t as Clean as You Think
Myth tells us that a dog’s mouth is cleaner than a human’s. Science says otherwise. First, we need to think about how dogs greet each other: by sniffing bums. When they do this, your pooch can pick up a bacterium called campylobacter. When your furry pal gives you a big kiss, they can pass that along to you. And this results in more than 200,000 cases of stomach flu for Americans every year. The most common symptom is diarrhea in both pets and humans.
Another bacterium you’ve probably heard of? Salmonella. That’s right — it doesn’t only come from raw meat or eggs. Your dog can give it to you, whether they’re infected or a carrier.
Salmonella can give you diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, and fever. So, you might want to ease up on the sloppy kisses with your companion.
Pasteurella is another bacteria that can lurk in your pet’s mouth — cats more often than dogs. It’s normally harmless, but it can lead to infections of the skin, ear, nose, and eyes. Humans can catch it, too, and will have a more extreme reaction. If you’re experiencing these symptoms (especially severe skin inflammation) and your pet was recently licking or biting you, see your medical professional. It can usually be treated with antibiotics.
What About Their Fur?
“So, if I don’t let my dog lick me, then I’m safe, right?” Wrong. Ringworm is one of the most common infections that dogs can pass to people, and it can live on their coats. Each year, pets spread ringworm to their humans about two million times. If your dog is exhibiting hair loss or flaky skin, schedule an appointment with your vet. For humans, be on the lookout for scaly red patches on your skin.
Have you ever noticed your pet scratching themselves a lot? Perhaps you suspected ticks, and understandably so. Ticks are common for dogs, although many types are harmless. However, you need to be aware of one specific tick-borne bacterial infection: Lyme disease. The concern is your pet bringing home an infected tick, which could infect a human.
If you experience headaches, chills, muscle aches, or fever, see your doctor. If you notice that your pet seems lethargic or has swollen joints or a loss of appetite, speak with your vet. If Lyme disease goes untreated, it can harm the heart and nervous system.
Be Vigilant About Cleaning Up Urine
You don’t need us to tell you that you should clean up and disinfect the area anytime your pet has an accident.
More specifically, though, be careful of leptospira, which is found in urine and can also be tracked inside. Leptospira can cause leptospirosis, and dogs are especially vulnerable to this. While it’s not common, it can escalate to liver or kidney failure in your best bud.
Now, are we telling you to kick your dog out of the house and never touch them again? Of course not. But there are certain precautions you can take to protect yourself, your pet, and your family.
How to Protect Your Home from Pet-Borne Bacteria
1. Wash Your Hands After Touching Your Pet
This one’s simple. If you just finished playing, cuddling, or feeding your pet, head to the sink. Remove any jewelry on your wrists and fingers. The CDC recommends washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Be sure to cover the tops of your hands, in between your fingers, and your nails.
2. Clean Up Your Pet’s Droppings
Cleaning up after your dog is more important than you might realize. Despite what many people think, poo does not immediately break down on its own. It can take up to 12 months! Rainwater can wash it into the drainage system, and it then ends up in natural bodies of water. Plus, the parasites and bacteria lurking in your dog’s doo can spread to other dogs and even yourself and your family. If your dog steps in it, it can stick to their feet and they can bring it back into your home.
When you go for walks, always bring poo bags with you. If your dog goes in the yard, pick it up and dispose of it right after they’re done. Simple!
3. Clean, Disinfect, and Purify Your Home
We’ve written in the past about how often you should clean your home. If you have pets, you’re going to need to do it more frequently. To control pet hair and dander, sweep and vacuum at least once a week, although more is better. Areas where your pet hangs out will need even more attention.
Do you let your dog sleep in the bed? You might want to rethink it. But if you’re adamant about getting those nighttime cuddles in, bathe or at least wipe down your dog beforehand. While our normal recommendation is to change the sheets once a week, if you sleep with your pal, you might consider doing this more frequently.
That covers the floors and bedding. What about the air you breathe? Yes, your pet’s hair and dander — and whatever else they might be bringing inside — is polluting the air around you! Fortunately, the solution is simple. An air purifier can cleanse the indoor air, making it safer to breathe for you and your loved ones.
Pets are our best friends. They’re part of the family. And because they’re family, we need to take care of them. Follow the tips in this blog and you’ll keep everyone in your family safe, healthy, and happy — Fido included.
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