Updated 28 June 2010

5 tips on pet health - and yours

Have pets? How much do you know about pet diseases and caring for an animal? And what about diseases they could give you?

Have pets? How much do you know about pet diseases and caring for an animal? And what about diseases they could give you?

In short, how do you think your pet would rate you as a pet owner?

1. Pet deworming protects people
Regardless of how much you love your dog or cat, these and other animals can still transmit certain diseases to you and your family. You may get more from your pet than joy and affection. Diseases like E. coli, salmonellosis, toxoplasmosis and rabies can be passed from animals to humans, and some of these may even be deadly.

Take action:
Here's how to protect yourself: have a veterinarian check your pet; set up a schedule of immunisations and de-worming for your pet; keep your pet clean and well-groomed, and trim its claws regularly; use disposable gloves when cleaning cages, litterboxes, animal pens and fish tanks; don't use pet waste as fertiliser; wash your hands with soap and hot water for 20 seconds immediately after handling, petting or cleaning up after animals; don't let your pets eat raw meat, drink from the toilet bowl, or dig through the garbage; and keep your pets away from food preparation areas.

2. Dealing with kitty litter
Many people keep cats in flats, where they have no choice but to use a cat litter tray. But litter trays can be smelly and potentially harmful things – and sometimes cats don't like using them. Our Cybervet gives some tips on how to deal with this problem.

Take action:
Clean litter trays regularly while wearing plastic gloves (pregnant women should not do this job at all, as they are at risk for contracting toxoplasmosis); if the litter tray is dirty, cats will not use it, and will use other places in the house/flat; use clumping litter, as you can scoop out the dirt and leave the rest; place the litter tray far away from the feeding area, otherwise the cats will not use it; if the cat is using other parts of the house, put clumps of cotton wool drenched in citronella oil in these places. Cats hate this smell and will return to the cat litter tray.

3. Are you allergic to your cat?
Cat allergy is the most common pet allergy, and affects nearly half of asthma sufferers. If you're allergic to your cat, rest assured in the fact that there's a lot you can do to lessen the effect of your pet's dander.

Take action:
Vacuum the carpets, floors and beds thoroughly each week; bath your cat weekly – cats bathed from an early age generally don’t mind being bathed; ban the cat from the bedroom; wipe down the bedroom walls with a damp cloth to remove allergen deposits regularly.

Regular airing of the home and thorough vacuum cleaning will reduce the level of cat allergen.

4. Some basics about pet care
Just like with being a parent, there is skill involved in being a successful pet owner. There's more to it than just going to the pet shop and getting a puppy or a kitten. You have a responsibility to keep your pet healthy. But how does one do this?

Take action:
Have your pet spayed or neutered - that is unless you want to use the dog or cat for breeding purposes; take your dog for regular walks, as dogs need exercise just as much as people do; feed your animals at the same time every day and feed them healthy foods, recommended by your vet; make sure there is always fresh water for your animals; take your pet to the vet if it stops eating or loses weight; make sure that your pet gets all the injections and vaccinations it needs; deworm and deflea your pets regularly.

5. Is your pet a roly-poly?
Obesity is the most common form of malnutrition in pets and increases their risk of developing a whole range of health problems, including heart disease, arthritis, diabetes and cancer.

Take action:
Look out for the following signs of obesity: an inability to feel a pet's ribs; an inability to see a pet's waist; tiredness, lethargy or shortness of breath.

If your pet really is your best friend and you want it to live a long and happy life, feed it the right amount of healthy food and take it for regular walks, which will help to beat the bulge. Your local vet can also give your pet a free weight check as well as advise you on how to put your pet on a weight management programme.

- (Health24, updated October 2012)

Read more:

Health benefits of owning a pet
10 things you owe your pet
Your pet's health


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