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Healthy Pets Healthy People

Keeping Pets Healthy Keeps People Healthy Too!

Pets can have a positive effect on their owner's health through increased fitness, lowering stress and increasing feelings of happiness. But, pets can carry germs that may make people sick. This website provides tips for staying healthy while enjoying pets.

dog and cat
  •  Always wash hands:
    • After touching or playing with your pet
    • After feeding your pet or handling pet food
    • After handling pet habitats or equipment (cages, tanks, toys, food and water dishes, etc)
    • After cleaning up poop, pee or vomit from your pet
    • After leaving areas where animals live (coops, barns, stalls, etc.), even if you didn't touch an animal
    • After removing soiled clothes or shoes
    • Before eating or drinking
    • Before preparing food or drinks

    Using soap and water to wash your hands is best, but you can use hand sanitizer until soap and water are available.

    Adults should assist children with washing their hands after being around animals or their environments.

    Healthy Pet Hygiene Practices:

    • Keep small pets and their habitats and supplies out of kitchens and bathrooms-germs from pets can contaminate surfaces and cause illness in people
    • Disinfect pet habitats and supplies outside the house if possible-never clean them in the kitchen or bathroom sink or areas where food is prepared
    • Remove your dog's poop from your yard and public places by using a bag, then disposing of it in proper areas such as a waste can
    • Keep young children out of areas that may be contaminated with dog or cat poop-dog and cat poop can contain parasites and germs that can make people sick
    • Keep sand boxes covered to prevent cats from using them as litter boxes
    • Clean your cat's litter box daily-pregnant women should avoid changing a cat's litter box to prevent exposure to parasites that can be harmful to a developing fetus

  • Ask yourself the following questions before choosing a new pet:

    • How long will this animal live?
    • What does the pet eat?
    • How much and what type of exercise does the pet need?
    • How large will it get?
    • How much will veterinary care cost?
    • Do I have enough time to properly care for and clean up after the pet?
    • What type of habitat does the pet need to be healthy?
    • Are pets allowed where I live?
    • Are there any young children, older people, or people with weak immune systems who will care for or be around the pet?  Anyone can get sick from germs that animals can carry, but some people are at higher risk for illness from animals
  • Backyard Poultry Basics

    • Keeping backyard poultry (chickens, ducks, geese, guinea fowl, turkeys) is becoming more common. 
    • It is fun, educational, and many people enjoy having fresh eggs and meat.
    • However, poultry can sometimes carry germs that can make people sick.

    Keeping Backyard Poultry Safely

    • Wash your hands with soap and water right after touching poultry or anything in the area where they live and roam
      • Use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not readily available
      • Adults should supervise handwashing for young children
    • Don't kiss your birds
    • Don't let backyard birds inside the house, especially near where food is prepared or stored
    • Don't eat or drink near your birds or their environments
    • Keep a separate set of shoes or shoe covers to keep outside and wear around your birds
    • Clean equipment, cages and food and water containers outdoors

    Handle Eggs Safely

    • Wash your hands after handling eggs
    • Keep a clean coop
    • Collect eggs often to prevent breakage and dirt buildup
    • Throw away broken eggs
    • Refrigerate fresh eggs to slow bacterial growth
    • Cook eggs until both the yolk and white are firm, or egg dishes to at least 160 degrees F.  Raw and undercooked eggs may contain Salmonella bacteria which can make people sick.

    Supervise Kids Around Poultry

    • Make sure kids wash their hands after being around poultry and their environments
    • Children younger than 5 years should not handle or touch poultry.  They frequently put their hands in their mouths and are more likely to get sick from germs commonly associated with poultry, such as Salmonella, Campylobacter, and E. coli.

    Prevent Injury From Birds

    • Poultry don't have teeth, but they can bite, peck or scratch.  Wash any injuries immediately with soap and water.
    • See your doctor if the injury is severe, it becomes red, painful or swollen, or it has been 5 years since your last tetanus shot



  • Reptile & Amphibian Basics

    • Many households have at least one reptile (dry scaly skin) or amphibian (smooth slimy skin).
    • These pets can carry germs that make people sick, including Salmonella.
    • Reptiles and amphibians carry these germs in their intestinal tracts, can be totally healthy, but can still spread the germs to people and make them sick. 
    • Kids under the age of 5 years, adults over the age of 65 years and people with weakened immune systems are more likely to get very sick from germs carried by reptiles and amphibians.

    Being Safe Around Reptiles & Amphibians

    • Wash your hands with soap and water after touch your pet, handling its food, cleaning its habitat, or before eating or drinking
      • Use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available
      • Supervise young children when they wash their hands
    • Children younger than 5 years should not handle reptiles or amphibians or touch their environments because they are at higher risk of serious illness from the germs they can carry
    • Keep reptiles and amphibians or their equipment out of the kitchen or anywhere where food is prepared or stored
    • Don't allow reptiles and amphibians to roam around the living area; people can become sick from touching surfaces contaminated with animal waste
    • Clean their equipment and habitats outdoors if possible.  Alternatively, use a laundry sink or bathtub, thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting after use
    • Pour tank water and other waste water from reptile and amphibian habitats down the toilet instead of sinks and drains.

    Safe Feeding Practices for your Reptile or Amphibian

    • Use a designated container for animal food and keep it away from human food
    • Wash your hands and the container after each feeding
    • If using feeder rodents:
      • Feeder rodents can also carry Salmonella and other germs and appear healthy
      • Freezing feeder rodents does not kill germs
      • Handle live feeder rodents and their habits as you would for reptiles and amphibians to protect against exposure to Salmonella and other germs
      • Prevent injury to your pet by feeding frozen rodents-never feed them wild rodents

    Prevent Injuries from Reptiles and Amphibians

    *Venomous reptiles and amphibians should not be kept in a household setting*

    • Bites and scratches from reptiles and amphibians can be dangerous because they can spread germs or even toxic substances, depending on the type of animal
    • Don't kiss them or hold them close to your face
    • Let them know you are near before you pick them up-they are more likely to bite if they are surprised
    • Feed them with tongs, don't use your hands
    • Handle them often to get them used to being held
    • Wash any injury immediately with soap and water
    • Seek medical attention when:
      • The animal is venomous or produces toxic substances-more information about snake bites is here
      • The animal appears sick
      • The injury is severe, is red, painful, warm or swollen, and it has been 5 years since you last tetanus vaccination