Here are some tips to help your family safely care for pets:
Always wash your hands, especially after touching your pet, handling your pet's food, or cleaning your pet's cage, tank, or litter box. Wear gloves when cleaning up after an animal's waste, and if you have a bird, wear a dust mask over your nose and mouth to prevent inhaling urine or fecal particles. Don't have kids clean cages or litter boxes unless there is supervision or until they have demonstrated they can do this safely and responsibly (and again, hands should be washed afterwards).
Avoid kissing or touching your pet with your mouth because infections can be transmitted by saliva. Also, avoid sharing food with your pet.
Keep your pet's living area clean and free of waste. If your pet eliminates waste outdoors, pick up waste regularly and don't allow kids to play in that area.
Don't allow pets in areas where food is prepared or handled, and don't bathe your pet or clean aquariums in the kitchen sink or bathtub. Wash your pet outdoors or talk to your veterinarian about professional pet grooming.
Avoid strange animals or those that appear sick. Never adopt a wild animal as a pet.
Watch kids carefully around pets. Small children are more likely to catch infections from pets because they crawl around on the floor with the animals, kiss them or share food with them, or put their fingers in the pets' mouths and then put their dirty fingers in their own mouths. Also, if kids visit a petting zoo, farm, or a friend's house where there are animals, make sure they know the importance of hand washing.
For your pet's comfort and for your family's safety, control flea and tick problems in your pet. Fleas and ticks can carry diseases that may be easily passed to kids. Oral and topical medications are available for flea and tick control; avoid using flea collars because kids can handle them and become sick from the chemicals they contain. Check your pet regularly for fleas and ticks, as well as bites and scratches that may make them more susceptible to infection. Keep your pet leashed when outdoors and keep it away from animals that look sick or may be unvaccinated.
And, finally, spay or neuter your pet. Spaying and neutering may reduce your pet's contact with other animals that may be infected, especially if your pet goes outdoors.
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