Health Consequences of Owning Pets

It may not seem possible that your sweet and adoring pet could pose any threat to your family’s health. Yes, pets can be loving members of the family. They can provide a great friend for your children, and are capable of turning your heart into a puddle with a simple tilt of the head. There are, however, some potential health risks associated with owning a pet that all pet owners should be aware of.

Pet allergies are quite common — 3 million cases in the United States each year. Proteins found in an animal’s skin, dander, saliva, or urine can cause allergic reactions such as sneezing, itching, watery eyes, and can even trigger asthma.

Not only is pet dander an allergen, but it can also lower the air quality in your home. Poor indoor air quality can increase allergy and asthma symptoms, cause respiratory problems, and could potentially lead to long-term health problems.

Cat owners have to be extra cautious when playing with or handling their pet. Cat scratch fever, also known as cat scratch disease, is a bacterial infection that usually develops after a person is bitten or scratched by a cat. However, since cats can carry the bacteria that causes the infection on their fur, the disease can develop without a bite or a scratch. Symptoms can include nausea, fever, fatigue, chills, and vomiting.

Pet food and people food have different regulations. While adults see a bowl of dog food as an unappetizing dish of who knows what, small children may see that same bowl of dog food as a delicious and enticing treat. Pet food can carry Salmonella, which in some cases can require hospitalization. Children are more susceptible to Salmonella bacteria than adults. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides some tips to keep your pet and your family safe from Salmonella.

Fleas can pose a serious risk to humans, and they love to ride around on pets. Flea bites can be uncomfortable, but they can also carry disease and in severe cases cause anemia. Fleas were largely responsible for the spread of bubonic plague in the 14th century that crippled the global population. Although the plague is quite rare today, it is still carried by fleas.

If you don’t want your pets to bring fleas, you might have to equip them with flea collars or give them flea treatments. The pesticides found in flea collars and flea treatments can be harmful to your family. Studies have shown that flea collars leave toxic residue that exceeds safe EPA levels.

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t own a pet.The health consequences of owning pets aren’t all negative. There is evidence that pet owners are happier and less prone to depression, get more exercise, and are less likely to suffer from high blood pressure.

However, if you do own a pet, you may have to take extra precautions to keep you and your family safe. For example, you might have to be more diligent in cleaning and replacing your air filter to improve the air quality in your home. You can give your pets regular baths to help prevent fleas. If you have pet allergies, you might have to meet with your primary care physician to discuss your options.