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    Infectious Disease Control Unit
    Mail Code: 1960
    PO BOX 149347 - Austin, TX 78714-9347
    1100 West 49th Street, Suite T801
    Austin, TX 78714

    Phone: 512 776 7676
    Fax: (512) 776-7616


    E-mail

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Zoonosis Control Branch

Pets Pets
(Animals, Animal Control, Animal Shelters, Pets, Animals in Disaster, Animals in Public Places, Animal Friendly Program, Animal Ownership, Animal Bites)

Good Pet Care is Important to Human Health

Did you say "I love you" to your faithful pet today? If so, you are not alone; approximately 91% of pet owners have said those same words to their pets at least once. Additionally, surveys indicate that about 76% of pet owners feel guilty about leaving their pets alone at home. No doubt about it, animals play an integral part of the family unit and, in some cases, can be one of the most important beings in a person's life. An estimated 59% (58.2 million) of US households contain a companion animal. Although dogs and cats comprise the majority of the pet population, birds, ferrets, fish, horses, rabbits, and an array of reptiles and rodents also deserve honorable mention.

The human-animal bond demonstrated in the home can also serve an important purpose in other arenas. For instance, therapy dogs provide a positive presence in nursing homes, centers for the mentally ill, and hospitals, to name a few. General patient health benefits emanated from companion animals visiting these facilities include promoting activity; improving mobility skills, use of affected extremities, communication, and memory skills; helping patients forget about their pain, loneliness, or boredom; providing a warm body to touch, stroke, hug, and offer treats; filling the void felt by patients missing their animals at home; giving a sense of being needed and of being a care-giver again; putting long-lost smiles on faces; and, overall, restoring health and spirit to the lonely, shut-in, or ill. Another direct health benefit includes the fact that many animals have a sixth sense about a person's mental or physical condition, and they alert facility staff members to potential problems.

In specific health scenarios, pet companionship has demonstrated significant benefits for sufferers of Alzheimer's disease; pets lowered hyperactivity, verbal aggression, anxiety, and psychological suffering in these patients. Pets have also demonstrated the ability to lower blood pressure in humans by their physical presence. Some dogs have even been known to detect melanomas, a type of skin cancer, which may have otherwise gone unnoticed.

With all that companion animals do for us, shouldn't we return the favor by being responsible pet owners? When you adopt an animal, a visit to a veterinarian should head your list of things to do. In addition to having a general health assessment, many animals, especially dogs, cats, ferrets, and horses, require a variety of vaccinations, many of which are subsequently given on an annual basis. Some of the diseases you are having your pet vaccinated against, such as rabies and leptospirosis, can be passed between animals and humans. Therefore, by protecting your animal, you are protecting yourself, family members, and friends from potential exposure to certain diseases. Many animal diseases caused by parasites, including a variety of worms, can also be shared with people; however, application of an appropriate wormer and some preventive medicine advice from a veterinarian can address any related animal and human health concerns.

Don't forget that responsible pet owners also get their animals spayed and castrated. Overpopulation in dogs and cats in particular poses a serious problem. It is a sad realization that approximately 15 million of these animals are euthanized yearly in animal shelters throughout the US because there are just not enough homes to go around. Additionally, spaying females helps to avoid potential infections and, if done early, reduces the chances of the animal developing mammary cancer. Castrating males diminishes fighting and subsequent injuries, roaming, prostate cancer, and, in cats, the dreaded art of marking territory through spraying.

Pet owners should also be aware that animal bites are a major public health concern. Approximately 400,000 dog bites occur annually in Texas, with half the victims being children. As a responsible pet owner, keep your dog(s) confined, whether in a fenced yard or on a leash, to avoid unfortunate encounters with people. Also learn about special issues involving the family pet's interactions with newborns and young children.


Texas Department of State Health Services - Infectious Disease Control Unit
1100 West 49th Street, Suite T801, Mail Code: 1960 PO BOX 149347 - Austin, TX 78714-9347
(512) 458-7676 - Fax: (512) 458-7616 - E-Mail

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Last updated February 22, 2011