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Pets - keeping yourself safe

pet; cat; dog; bite; worm; flea; ringworm; psittacosis tinea; ringworm; allergy; dander; safety; sandpit; sand pit ;


There are lots of good things for children about having and caring for pets, and some of them are in the topic 'You and your pets'. Playing with and cuddling pets [not spiders yuk!] is part of the fun of having them, but there are some things to remember if you want to keep yourself safe.

Germs, worms and fleas

  • walking the dogAlways wash your hands after playing with a pet, and be especially careful before eating, in case any germs have got onto your fingers.
  • Don't let pets lick your face - they may have been licking somewhere unmentionable just before they licked you!  If they do lick your face, don't panic - soap and water will get rid of any nasty germs.
  • Pets get worms and fleas. They need to be treated regularly to keep them healthy. Animal fleas can bite you.
  • Some skin diseases such as ringworm can be spread to humans from dogs and cats. [Ringworm is not really a worm, it is a skin infection caused by tinea - see our topic "Fungal infections".]
  • Some people can be allergic to animal hair or dander [the dry skin that rubs off pets and sticks in the animal's fur.] They might get hay fever or asthma if they get too close to some pets - see our topic "Allergies - general".

It sounds like a lot of problems, doesn't it. But if you take care, pets can be great fun and not cause any problems!

Bites and scratches

  • bird in a cageAlways wash any scratches and bites from animals with soap and water as soon as possible. If the bite or scratch bleeds, that means it is deep and you need to get mum or dad to check it.
  • Never go up to a strange animal. You don't know how it will act towards you.
  • Never try to play with an animal that is eating or sleeping. Even your own pet that you've had for ages may be startled and bite or scratch.
  • Keep an eye on younger brothers or sisters when they are playing with your pet. Young children haven't learned to treat animals with respect and they could be too rough.
  • Do you get upset when people tease you? So do pets. If you take away something of theirs like a toy or food they might bite or scratch you if they try to get it back. They don't understand that you are playing a game with them.

Sometimes people can get nasty infections from animal bites and scratches. Have a look at the topic "Bites from animals".

Cleaning up

  • Regularly clean up after your pet in the garden, the cat litter tray or the area where your pet lives.
    cleaning up after your pet
  • Keep your sandpit covered when you are not using it. Cats like to use sandpits as a toilet and leave nasty germs and other things. 
  • To avoid getting germs, wear rubber gloves and make sure that you wash your hands well after cleaning up.
  • Clean tables and other surfaces if your pet has done a poo or wee on them.

Sick pets

  • sick dogSome pets can get sick very easily, especially if they are taken to a place where they don't normally live.
  • Birds [including chickens] can pass on an illness to people called psittacosis (say sitta-co-sis). It is caused by breathing in dust which has dried bird droppings [poo] in it and causes people to feel like they have 'flu.
  • If your pet is not well, take it to the vet who will know how to make it better and can tell you if it has a disease that you could catch.
  • Whatever pet you have be sure to visit the vet regularly for vaccinations, worming and checking that your pet is healthy.

Dr Kate says

Dr Kate
"Having a pet in your home is a big responsibility, and it can be a lot of work but can be a whole lot of fun for you and your family. Help your pet to have a happy life by giving it lots of attention, keeping it clean, fed and happy and training it to know how to behave."

unusual pet - crocodile

Children say:

What some children said about keeping safe with pets:

  • "Don't run away from dogs or they will chase you."
  • "Be kind to animals and they will be kind to you."
  • "Never go near a dog which is growling as it may be scared and it might bite."
  • "Be careful when you hold a rabbit. Their back legs are strong and they have sharp claws."
  • "Any animal will bite to protect itself."
  • "Clean out cages or your birds or other animals will get sick. They stink too."
  • "Don't go near your pet when it is eating. It might think you're going to take the food away and then it could bite or scratch you."
  • "Don't go up to strange animals. You may scare them and they may try to defend themselves."
  • "Always ask before you pat someone else's pet."
  • "Don't over-feed your dog - dogs can get obese too."

Unusual pets

Some people have unusual pets...

Hi, my name is Elisha. I have unusual pets. Some of them are crocodiles, wombats, kangaroos, parrots, possums and sugar gliders. My mum has a special licence to look after Australian animals that need help. Many animals get ill or die when they are frightened. You can tell they are frightened if they shake, won't move or get snappy. If you find an animal which is hurt be very gentle.

Dogs are good friends
to have by your side.
Horses are big enough
for you to ride.
Fish? Good to look at,
but don't know you're there.
Birds can get lonely
unless they're a pair.
My cat can be kind
and sit on my knee.
But I don't 'own' my cat,
He thinks he owns me!

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We've provided this information to help you to understand important things about staying healthy and happy. However, if you feel sick or unhappy, it is important to tell your mum or dad, a teacher or another grown-up.


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