Facts Every Parent Needs To Know About Zoonotic Diseases

One of the greatest risks parents take with their children is owning pets, a risk many parents take because most kids adore animals and pets make wonderful companions for them. Minimizing your child's risk of catching diseases from your pets is important because some diseases can have deadly results, especially in babies and toddlers. Learn more about some zoonotic diseases and how you can protect your child from them.

Puppies And Kittens

Not many adults or children can resist snuggling close to an adorable puppy or kitten, but doing so can be risky if a puppy or kitten is carrying roundworms, hookworms, or tapeworms. Puppies are born with hookworms and roundworms, being passed to them through their mother's milk. Kittens can also be born with roundworms in the same way. Puppies and kittens can become infected with tapeworms through the ingestion of fleas.

Your child can also become infected with any of these intestinal parasites by handling puppies and kittens, especially if they love to kiss and put their face into their pet's fur, a natural inclination for little children with soft, fuzzy creatures. Making sure your child does not have his or her face close to their pets is important. Be sure your child always washes his or her hands with soap for at least twenty seconds after handling an animal of any kind. Also, have your pets receive veterinarian treatment for de-worming on a regular basis to prevent intestinal parasites.


Aquarium pets are popular, especially for kids that live in homes that do not allow dogs or cats. Many people keep reptiles like turtles, iguanas, and geckos as pets. If your child has or wants a reptilian pet, considering the risk of zoonotic diseases like salmonella is a good idea. Many reptiles carry salmonella on their scales as a defense mechanism against predators. When your child handles a reptile or even touches parts of an aquarium housing a reptile, the risk of him other getting salmonella is high. Consider carefully the choice for reptilian pets if your children are under the age of five. Their risk of infection is higher due to an under-developed immune system.

Feathered Pets

Psittacosis is a zoonotic disease you and your children can get from pet birds, especially those in the parrot family. The most dangerous risk associated with psittacosis is it can be contracted by inhalation of the organism that causes the disease, so actual contact does not have to occur to get it. Pet birds do pose a low risk of having this disease, so having a pet bird tested for it before you bring it home is best if you have children. Contact an exotic pet veterinarian for scheduling this type of test. If you already have a pet bird and your child exhibits symptoms of unexplained fever, headaches, and other flu-like symptoms, visiting your child's pediatrician is vital. Remember to let your child's doctor know you have a pet bird is best for narrowing down the cause of your child's symptoms.

Wild Animals

Even if you do not have pets, your children may enjoy playing in the backyard where a raccoon may have been during the night. Raccoons are notorious for visiting homes during the night while foraging for food. While the risk is low, your child could possibly become infected with a parasite carried by raccoons if he or she is playing in the dirt where a raccoon may have defecated. Most kids have had their moments of tasting dirt. However, if your child eats the soil that a raccoon may have been on, he or she could become infected with baylisascaris procyonis, an intestinal parasite carried by raccoons. Keeping a close eye on small children while they play in the dirt is the best way to prevent them from sampling the soil.

The home with happy, healthy children and pets is easier to maintain when you, as a parent, learn how to make sure both your kids and pets stay that way. Always take the time to become more informed about any pet you are considering for your kids to ensure their health and safety being around that particular type of animal. 

For more information, consider contacting a professional like those at Lawrenceville Pediatrics.