Surprising Pet Hazards

Pets can be a joy, but if you're not careful, they can also put kids at risk for infection. Here, tips from pediatrician and Parents adviser Mark Widome, M.D.

Dogs

Risk: A dog infected with ringworm could pass the fungal skin infection to a child. Also, feces and urine can harbor illness-causing bacteria or parasites.

Precaution: Take your pet to the vet regularly to check for infections. Remove dog feces from the ground, and don't let your pet go where kids play.

    Cats

    Risk: Even a minor scratch from a kitten can introduce bacteria that cause cat-scratch disease, which leads to swelling of the lymph nodes.

    Precaution: Trim your kitten's nails or choose a feline over 1 year (older cats are less likely to harbor the bacteria).

      Reptiles

      Risk: Turtles, lizards, snakes, and iguanas can spread salmonella.

      Precaution: Keep reptiles away from young children. Encourage hand-washing after handling a reptile or cleaning its cage.

        Birds

        Risk: Their droppings can, in rare cases, spread psittacosis, a bacterial disease that triggers flulike symptoms.

        Precaution: Keep reptiles away from young children. Encourage hand-washing after handling a reptile or cleaning its cage.

          Copyright© 2004. Reprinted with permission from the April 2002 issue of Parents magazine.

            All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.