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Pets and petting zoos

Pets are like family members in many Canadian households, but like all animals, they can carry dangerous organisms. You can come into contact with harmful bacteria, viruses or parasites when you play with and clean up after your pets, handle pet food, and when you visit a petting zoo.

Diseases called "zoonoses" can be passed from animals to humans or from humans to animals. Some zoonoses are very dangerous to humans including:

These diseases can be especially dangerous for young children, the elderly, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems. If left untreated, they can even be deadly.

How zoonoses are transmitted from animals to humans

Animals can transmit harmful organisms in several ways:

You can also get sick from handling your pet's food and treats. This can happen when the food is contaminated with E. coli or Salmonella bacteria.

If you get these harmful organisms on your hands, you could spread them to your face, mouth, eyes or your food. If you have touched an animal, their toys, their food and treats or cleaned up after them, wash your hands right away before touching anything else!

Four ways to protect yourself and your family

1. Keep your pet healthy

2. Watch out for animal waste

Pregnant women should not be exposed to cat litter boxes since these might be contaminated with parasites harmful to the fetus.

3. Keep clean

Some reptile foods such as frozen or defrosted mice, rats and chicks can contain Salmonella and be a potential source of infection for both the reptile and its owners. Handwashing is very important to protect yourself.

4. Take care at petting zoos

Reptiles (like turtles, lizards and snakes) and amphibians (like newts, frogs and toads) can shed Salmonella bacteria on their skin or in the water.

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