What to Do When The good news is that “most of these diseases are completely preventable and avoidable,” said Gearhart. “If you vaccinate your dog against rabies and other diseases common in your region, you aren’t likely to have to worry about them.” Keeping cats flea-free will help to prevent them from getting bartonellosis. Don’t let the dog lick the kids’ faces. Everyone should wash their hands regularly.
Gearhart urged pet owners to train all family members to wash hands often and avoid hand-to-eye or hand-to-mouth contact after touching animals, dirty cages, bedding and accessories. Cover children’s sandboxes so neighborhood cats don’t use them for litter boxes and clean up dog waste in the backyard. “These safeguards keep pets safe and healthy, as well as people,” she said.
Because it’s hard to keep young children—and even older children and adults—from hands-on contact with pets, reinforcing good hygiene is vital. “Make sure both pets and people are trained properly to reduce bites and scratches, do flea prevention, and have regular veterinarian contact,” said Weese.
And watch out for wild animals, warns the CDC: “You should never adopt wild animals as pets or bring them home. Teach children never to handle unfamiliar animals, wild or domestic, even if the animal appears to be friendly.”
Don’t forget about heartworm prevention while tackling the issue of pet diseases. Though you can’t get heartworm from your pet, preventing heartworm with a year-round preventive helps keep your pet healthy and your mind at ease. The American Heartworm Society and the Companion Animal Parasite Council recommend that all pets receive year-round heartworm protection so that pets are protected every month. It is critical that doses not be skipped or intervals between doses be extended because this results in an unprotected time during which animals may be exposed to heartworm larvae. Pets should also have annual heartworm testing by a veterinarian prior to prescribing a heartworm medication.