Is Your Pet Making You Sick?

We love our pets. And when they’re sick, we want to hold them close. But can they pass those diseases on to us? Yes. And some can be deadly. Find out how to keep both of you safe from the most common pet illnesses…

For many of us, pets are family. We talk to them, watch TV together, let them sleep on our beds.

But close contact can expose you to serious ailments.

That doesn’t mean you should ban pets from your home. The key to keeping yourself healthy is awareness and prevention, says Margaret Lewin, M.D., Medical Director of Cinergy Health and primary care internist in New York.

“Having pets can be safe for you, your family and the pet if you do your homework carefully beforehand – learning about the specific types of pet, potential risks, how to prevent health problems,” she says.

Read on to learn how to avoid getting 6 pet illnesses:

1.Toxoplasmosis. What it is: One of the most common parasitic diseases. It’s caused by a microscopic critter called Toxoplasma gondii.

How you get it: Cats who eat infected birds, rodents and other small animals pass the parasites’ eggs in their feces.

When you clean the litter box or do gardening where cats roam, you can accidently ingest infected feces, says veterinarian Eileen Ng, BVMS, of Western Veterinary Group in Lomita, Calif.

Kids face additional risk if they play in sandboxes that cats use as a bathroom.

You – and your cat – can also get toxoplasmosis by eating uncooked meats (such as lamb, pork or beef) from an infected animal, Ng says.

In pets: Cats usually don’t show obvious symptoms, Ng says. It rarely causes significant medical problems in healthy animals.

But some may have fever, vomiting or diarrhea.

If so, ask your vet to do a blood test for toxoplasmosis. It’s treated with antibiotics, such as clindamycin, and drugs that prevent the parasite from reproducing.

There’s no vaccine.

In humans: Most healthy adults don’t develop a serious illness from toxoplasmosis. They may not even know they have it, says Janet Horn[1], M.D., Lifescript women’s health expert.

Symptoms, if noticed at all, are similar to the flu or mononucleosis: severe fatigue, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes and blurred or reduced vision, eye pain and redness.

They can last a month or more but go away without treatment, she says.

For young children, the elderly or anyone with a weakened immune system, toxoplasmosis is dangerous: When your body can’t fight the parasite, it damages the brain, eyes and other organs.

References^ Janet Horn (

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