There is stacks and stacks of research that talks about the many benefits of having a family pet. Even from a very young age, research has shown that pets help children become more responsible, increase their self-esteem and even help reduce the chances of allergies.
But a new study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal is saying that the risk might not be worth proven benefits.
So what is the big risk? “Household pets can transmit infection to people, especially those with weak immune systems, young children, pregnant women and seniors,” the article states.
It seems that all pets can transmit diseases to humans: dogs, cats, rodents and reptiles can transmit Salmonella, multidrug resistant bacteria, Campylobacter jejuni, parasite (like roundworm) and other diseases.
Infections can be contracted through bites, scratches and saliva and reptiles and amphibians can transmit diseases through contaminated surfaces.
So what does this mean? Are we supposed to keep our kids from pets for their whole lives? As someone who grew up with cats and dogs her whole life, I think that might be a bit extreme. And thankfully, the authors of the paper agree.
The solution, as always, is to just be careful.
“Given the health benefits of animal ownership and the reluctance of patients to give up their pets, resources highlight the importance of following specific precautions,” states Dr. Jason Stull, assistant professor, Department of Veterinary Preventative Medicine, Ohio State University. “Patients at high risk and their households should have increased vigilance of their pets’ health and take precautions to reduce pathogen transmission.”
Take precautions in your household like being sure to properly wash hands after contact with a pet, keep pets from licking faces, regular cleaning and disinfecting of feeding areas and bedding and keep litter boxes away from where food prep and eating occurs.