Pets, Animals, & Other Assorted Creatures

Reading one of my husband’s veterinary journals gave me the idea for this Doctor’s Note

Being married to a veterinarian for over 30 years and raising two sons has proven to be very interesting indeed. When our sons were younger and I worked my weekend shifts in the NICU, new pets would mysteriously appear in our home. They knew that once there, I would not be mean enough to tell them that they had to take the animal back. We had the traditional pets, including dogs, a cat, a bird, and fish. Our non-traditional pets were a bearded dragon, guinea pig, tree frogs, mice, turtle, newts, and a sugar glider. Other people have owned ferrets, rabbits, chinchillas, and hedgehogs!

Pets can provide both companionship and protection. They can teach children responsibility and stimulate their learning and curiosity. Many people consider their pets to be members of their family.

CHOOSING A PET

When choosing a family pet, several things should be taken into consideration, such as your family’s lifestyle and living arrangements. All pets require personal attention, special care and housing.

In some areas, it’s becoming more commonplace for people to purchase animals that were originally used just for their eggs or meat. Families in rural, suburban, and city areas are purchasing baby poultry at feed stores or hatcheries to have the experience of raising their own food and caring for them as pets. In some cases, these animals can be shipped directly to a private residence.

KEEPING CHILDREN HEALTHY AROUND PETS & ANIMALS   

Thorough hand-washing using soap and water immediately after touching animals, especially poultry or reptiles, is one of the most important things to decrease the chance of contracting salmonella. If soap and water is not available, use hand sanitizer. Parents should always supervise hand washing of younger children.

Since the 1990s, the Center for Disease Control has reported 45 cases of salmonella outbreaks linked to live poultry. In 2012, the last year reported, there were 8 outbreaks. Salmonella, which usually causes diarrheal illness, can be carried by dogs, cats, horses and reptiles. It can be shed in their droppings and can be on their bodies and places that they inhabit.

As recommended by the CDC, children younger than 5 years of age or persons with weakened immune systems should not handle or touch chicks, ducklings, other live poultry, or reptiles.

Do not allow children to snuggle or kiss birds, touch their mouths, or eat or drink around live poultry. Parents should not allow their child or pet to come in contact with stray or wild animals, which are more likely to carry disease. Pets should not be allowed to lick your child on the mouth.

Reptiles should not be allowed to roam freely throughout the house and should be kept out of the kitchen and food preparation areas. The kitchen sink should not be used to bathe pets or cleanse their dishes, cage, or aquariums. Clean bathtubs thoroughly with bleach if used for the above purposes.

Wear gloves or use a scooper when handling your pet’s stool or urine. Wash hands after handling your pet, pet food, or bedding, or after cleaning up after your pet even if you have worn gloves. This is very important — especially before eating.

Healthy pets are most likely to live a long life with your family and less likely to carry disease, so be sure to have regular veterinary checkups, vaccinations, and tick-and-flea preventative care.

For more information see the CDC Healthy Pets Healthy People web page.

Following these simple suggestions will hopefully keep your children, family, and pets both happy and healthy.

Terri Bailey, a Kids Plus Provider, is a Certified Registered Nurse Practitioner.