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Pets and hygiene tips for humans

by PetBond Veterinary Surgeon

Pets and hygiene tips for humans

The growing number of people who own dogs in Ireland that live to a ripe old age, makes it abundantly clear that owning a dog isn’t among the greatest of dangers or risks that you might knowingly let yourself in for! In reality owning a dog can be hugely beneficial for you, both physically and mentally.

Alas readers…… even people who really really really love their dogs would find it hard to argue a case that dogs are ultra clean animals (I mean cats are professional cleaners), and some of the antics that dogs get unto can be outright disgusting, and that’s just on a normal doggo day. Let’s not even mention the “special” occasions when they might say, gleefully eat poop or roll in the remains of a dead squirrel they find in the park.

It’s very normal therefore to wonder if owning a dog or being in very close contact with dogs can pose a particular health or hygiene risk to people, or even mean that you’re at risk of acquiring an illness from your dog, or being more prone to diseases in general. Some people would say the opposite, that by exposing ourselves to some ‘germs’, we acquire better immunity.

In a nutshell, there are risks when owning a dog (what aspects of life are 100% risk free…right?) but as long as you’re aware of them and manage yourself and your environment accordingly, living with a dog should not be seen as a health risk, but an absolute joy.

To explain this in more detail, we will tell you how your dog could theoretically pose a threat to your health or hygiene if you were not aware, or in certain circumstances, how you can reduce related risks. Want to know more, just read on!

Are dog bites very dangerous?

Dog bites are one of the most common and serious health hazards that canines pose to humans, and whilst we think of them as a very rare or highly unlikely event, a lot of people will actually be bitten or nipped by a dog once in their lives. Those of us that have lots of contact with dogs (such as vets, dog trainers, dog groomers etc) are much more likely to be ‘nipped’!

It’s important too stress that not all dog bites are serious, but all should be taken seriously; both in terms of the seriousness  of the situation around a bite itself, and with respect to the injury caused. The underlying reason for any dog bite is an important consideration, and we need to get to the root cause, as the vast majority of dogs would not ‘nip’ without a significant reason.

Learning how to understand and interpret a dog’s body language, ensuring that your own dog is obedient and well mannered, and by not approaching strange dogs without permission all help reduce any potential risk. Remember, dogs have feelings and emotions, are their personal space must always be respected just like us humans.

 Are Infections easy to get?

Even a little nip from a dog bite that breaks the skin, or a scratch that leaves a cut from a dog’s claw carries some risk of infection, and this is often more likely to cause an issue than a bite itself. We have bacteria on our skin surfaces that protect us normally, and if for whatever reason the skin in broken, these bacteria can get inside and cause an infection. Once more, taking care to avoid injury with your dog and being conscientious about cleaning and caring for a dog-related cut, will all reduce any risks and complications. We all want happy pets & happy people!

Fleas

Dog fleas don’t tend to bite humans, but they can and sometimes do. They much prefer to live on a dog’s skin and coat where they have plenty of nutrition. At different stages of their lifecycle they live in carpets and floorboards where they are well protected. If your dog is infested with fleas or your house is invaded with dog fleas, then the risk to you and your family increases. It is wise to consult your local veterinary surgeon who will provide you with the best products for both your dog and it’s environment in such a case. Good advise in these cases is always invaluable! Stay ‘flea free’ at all times.

Ringworm

Ringworm is not actually a worm despite what many people think. It is a fungal skin condition, which can be passed between dogs, cats, cattle, horses to humans. It is relatively minor but very easy to contract. The fungus which affects different animals has a unique genetic structure, however all can result in ringworm in humans. The fungus is a nuisance as it survives very well in the environment, and is acquired by contact. In most species it will resolve itself by self cure in time as the immune system over comes it, however it can be very irritating for most animals. This is why we advise seeking veterinary advise and acquiring the right medication. Cats often develop ringworm in their nail beds initially, which can spread as a result of scratching and grooming.

There are other health conditions that can be passed onto people from dogs, and most of these can be found in dog poop; the risk then coming from contact with dog poop. Recently, laws were passed in Ireland where on the spot fines can be issued to dog owners if they are found out walking a dog without ‘poo bags’. The public risk from dog faeces is significant, and no more so for young children should they acquire the protozoan parasite Toxocara, which can lead to blindness. By having your pet checked by a vet on a regular basis and receiving the correct worming products on their advise, the risk of this parasite is very unlikely. Always wash children’s hands after being in public park, as some dogs owners still do not collect their dog’s poop! Salmonella and eColi are two of the better-known nasty also in dogs faeces, so with basic hygiene and had washing we can all avoid these.

Additionally, leptospirosis is another potential health condition people can catch from dogs, and is spread by contact with infected urine. If your dog is not infected, they can’t pass it on to you; and leptospirosis is included in the standard canine combined vaccine, so always make sure that your vet administers your dog vaccinations and on time.

Can I get Allergies and asthma from a dog?

People who are allergic to dogs and even those that suffer from acute asthma might be affected by the presence of a dog, although some do not show any signs. Likewise, people who are allergic to dust and other triggers need to avoid those.

Being allergic to some dogs doesn’t mean you’ll be allergic to every dog breed, and not all dogs are likely to trigger asthma as badly as others. Therefore, you should not rule out being a dog owner if you believe that being in the presence of a dog triggers an allergic reaction. steak with your veterinary surgeon and doctor as it is possible to het hypoallergenic breeds such as bichons, schnauzers, and dachshunds who are all non shedding. This may work for some people, so have that discussion with the professionals always.

Generally speaking, and as we are seeing in the current COVID-19 crisis, the elderly and those with a compromised immune system are always more at risk than the rest of the population. We should therefore that hygiene standards and general pet care is heightened in the presence of such groups. It is always with remembering that pets are often the greatest source of joy and happiness to such people, so let’s keep everyone safe and enjoy the magic of our Petbond.

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