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The Importance of Hygiene Around Pets

By: Anna Martin - Updated: 9 Nov 2015 | comments*Discuss
Toxoplasmosis Pets Animals Infection

An easy way of catching germs and parasites is to handle household pets without any consideration for hygiene standards. Handling and playing with pets is considered to be a rewarding pastime, so many of us fail to notice the potential hazards to our health. Acknowledging that there are steps that can be taken to limit the spread of germs will help you and your family stay safe and healthy.

Why Do We Keep Pets?

Many of us keep pets for companionship. If we have children pets will provide a certain amount of play and entertainment value too, whilst teaching children the importance of responsibility and kindness. Pets also provide beneficial stress relief to their owners, and in the case of dogs, a good form of additional exercise.

Germs And Diseases

Many pets carry germs and parasites that are easily passed on to us through handling and play. Ringworm, lyme disease, food poisoning and Toxoplasmosis are just a few of the nasty conditions that animals may spread. These germs and parasites live in infected pets, and are spread through contact with the animal’s faeces. These diseases can make us feel sick, have diarrhoea, fever, and can also affect our internal organs, which is especially harmful to pregnant women, as the diseases can also affect an unborn child.


Usually acquired through contact with cats, Toxoplasmosis is an infection caused by a single-celled parasite. The disease can also be picked up through handling raw or undercooked meat. Symptoms range from a flu-like feeling, swollen lymph nodes and muscle pains that can last for a few weeks. An individual with a compromised immune system, or anyone undergoing chemotherapy treatment, will be at serious risk of developing problems through a Toxoplasmosis infection. Severe infection can result in damage to the eyes, internal organs or brain.

Babies of women who were exposed to Toxoplasmosis shortly before becoming pregnant, or during the pregnancy, are at a risk of being born with impaired vision or brain damage. Ensuring you take preventive measures like handling raw meat with caution and wearing gloves whilst gardening will help reduce the risk of infection.

How To Stay Germ-Free

Thoroughly washing hands before and after coming into contact with a pet, or the pet’s tank, cage or litter tray will ensure we do not spread parasites and germs the animal may be carrying. It is important to ensure children pay particular attention to cleanliness by being taught the importance of hygiene as soon as possible. Even when playing in the garden, children should be encouraged to wash their hands when play is over.

Keeping pets off kitchen work surfaces will also help reduce the chances of spreading germs and disease. As does making sure cat litter trays, rabbit hutches and fish and reptile tanks are positioned away from the kitchen or dining areas of your home. Also ensuring that litter trays and tanks etc are cleaned regularly will eliminate further health hazards.

Using separate utensils, for dishing up pet food, and providing your pet with their own food and water bowls also keeps germs at bay.

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Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
I need some help on animal hygiene,for a school project. I need to know what it is and what I can do to help prevent bad hygiene for animals. Also I have a dog who sleeps all day but is always excited when we come back from school. He mostly hangs around my mom and he sleeps in their room. He's not usually sick so I think letting him sleep in their room is okay.....right?
Livi - 9-Nov-15 @ 8:36 PM
@willi - not very healthy - and the dog needs exercise poor thing. Can you not volunteer to take it out for a frequent walk? I'm sure it will become your best friend if you do. You will be responsible for giving it a new lease of life!
Sasha - 17-Apr-15 @ 10:52 AM
my in laws has a jack russel which is highly overweight , hardly ever go outside of the house , eat cooked chicken that has been de boned , eat bones all in house . the dog sleeps in bed with them ,sleeps on their lap virtually the whole day . sleeps on my couches the whole day . then on top off it all wee and poo inside the house overnite even though the is place for her to do her things outside on the stoep .how healthy is this set up ? can you help me
willi - 17-Apr-15 @ 8:04 AM
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