Pets and other animals: Infectious Disease Risks

Girl&Goat Family washing dog Girl holding cat

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What diseases could your pet or other animal be carrying?

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Learn more about diseases that can be carried by animals.

Pets can be important family members. Having a pet can be very beneficial to children providing them with comfort and companionship. However animals can also carry diseases which can be passed onto humans. These are called zoonotic diseases. Taking the following steps will minimise the risk of disease being passed to humans by your pet:

  • Keep pets clean - pets can carry disease vectors such as ticks and fleas
  • Keep pets healthy – pets should be regularly inspected by your family vet to ensure they are not carrying any chronic diseases
  • Handwashing – wash hands every time you touch your pet, feed your pet or clean up after your pet
  • Protect young children and infants while handling animals:
    • Children under the age of 5 should be supervised while handling animals.
    • Children should not be allowed to kiss pets or to put their hands or other objects into their mouths after handling animals.
    • Childrens' hands should be washed thoroughly with running water and soap after contact with animals.
    • Handwashing prior to breast feeding or preparation of formula is strongly recommended.

Farm Animals
Farm visits are both enjoyable and educational. They give children the chance to see where food comes from and to have contact with animals they otherwise might not see. There are many potential hazards (as with domestic pets) on all open farms including pet and animal farms. Follow the guidelines in the Visitors Guide to Open Farms and Open farms and pet farms in Ireland: A practical guide to preventing and controlling infection (EHAI).

Wild or unfamiliar animals
For their safety, children should be taught not to handle unfamiliar animals either wild or domestic even if they appear friendly. Wild animals can carry diseases that are dangerous to humans.

Children and Animals: Resources

Last updated: 10 June 2015