Can You Have Pets When Your Immune System’s Compromised?

Pets have healing power, just follow safety precautions

In The Power of Wagging Tails, we share countless stories and research about how human lives are made happier and healthier when they include a pet. Wagging tails have healing power and can help people fight and recover from a wide range of diseases. But what about when someone has a compromised immune system and they are more prone to getting infections? Is it safe to be around a pet?

This important question is discussed in a new paper in The Veterinary Journal. In this paper, Dr. Elad from The Kimron Veterinary Institute discusses research showing:

  • In one study, AIDS-related infections were no different in people with and without pets
  • Immune-compromised patients are more likely to get infections from their environment than from their pet

Nevertheless, pets can carry a range of infections that might be picked up by humans and pose problems to people with sensitive immune systems.

Dr. Elad offers a range of recommendations to help reduce risks:

  • When selecting a new pet:
    • An older pet may be a better choice since younger animals are more likely to carry infections than older animals
    • Pets would ideally be selected from facilities that have a few animals rather than crowded facilities or dealerships that mix animals together
    • New pets should be examined by a veterinarian before being brought home
    • Tips for current household pets:
      • Don’t feed raw meat diets
      • Keep toilet lids closed so pets can’t drink from dirty toilets
      • Dispose of animal droppings quickly and carefully
      • Keep your face and mouth away from your pet
      • Wash your hands frequently

Any good nurse will tell you, the best way to reduce infections is to wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands.

If you or someone you love has a compromised immune system or is more sensitive to infections, be sure to talk to your doctor about contact with pets. Your doctor can help you make the best choice for your particular situation. This conversation is important even if you don’t have a pet but might visit friends and family who do.

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