Your chance of getting sick from your pet is low, but not zero.
Wellness Wire
IN a nutshell
Hi friends, I hope you’re all well. I’m having an above average day because I get to spend this entire newsletter talking about my favorite thing: pets!
If you’re part of the 65% of U.S. households that own a pet, you might wonder about the likelihood of getting sick from your animal pal(s). Below, we talk with some experts about how risky it is to cohabitate with a pet and relay some strategies for healthy pet-owning practices.
Other agenda items for today include:
an anti-anxiety bed for your dog
how a pet can help you stay healthy as you age
does drinking coffee affect your step count?
can CBD help you quit smoking?
our first annual pet photo contest 📸
Stay sharp,
Ginger Wojcik
Newsletter Editor, Healthline
  Written by Ginger Wojcik
June 13, 2024 • 6 min read
Why you shouldn’t cut corners on hygiene when you own a pet
what’s got us buzzing
Why you shouldn’t cut corners on hygiene when you own a pet
  • The risk of getting sick from your pet is low as long as you practice good hygiene and keep your pets healthy.
  • Young children, older adults, and people who are pregnant or immunocompromised should be extra cautious about handling pets, especially reptiles, birds, rodents, and cats.
Generally speaking, if you’re healthy and follow proper hygiene practices, you don’t need to worry too much about picking up something from your pet. “The risk of picking up an infectious disease from your pet is low, but still present and must be carefully managed,” says Dr. Sony Sherpa.

While pets are our babies, they’re also animals who may delight in licking their butts, eating trash, and other behaviors that put them in close contact with bacteria, fungi, parasites, and viruses. It’s a smart idea to wash your hands after touching animals in general, especially if you come into close contact with their saliva or feces, which is the most common route of pet-to-human infection. That means washing your hands after:
  • feeding them
  • handling their food bowls or toys
  • aluminum (found in lipsticks and antiperspirants)
  • picking up or cleaning their poop
  • they lick your hands
Yes, this means no face or mouth kisses! It’s not a great idea to let your animals eat off anything you eat from, either, unless you thoroughly sanitize it afterward. Veterinarian Paola Cuevas suggests keeping all pets, pet food, and pet supplies out of your kitchen to decrease the risk of food contamination, too.

Cuevas also emphasizes that reptiles, birds, rodents, and cats carry an increased risk of disease transmission. (For example, reptiles carry Salmonella and cats carry Toxoplasma gondii, which causes toxoplasmosis.) So older adults, young children, and people who are pregnant or immunocompromised may want to avoid these pets altogether or be extra cautious with how they handle them.

Lastly, you can protect your health even further by keeping your pets healthy. Keep them up to date on their vaccinations, flea, tick, and worm meds, and be vigilant about any signs of infection or sickness. After all, having a happy, healthy pet will only add to the list of wonderful benefits they may offer, which we talk more about in our next story below.
great finds
Editor faves with health perks
Pooch Pouch Anti-Anxiety Calming Bed for Dogs
Pooch Pouch Anti-Anxiety Calming Bed for Dogs
If your pup’s an anxious wreck, chances are you might be a little stressed yourself. So when you invest in helping them feel better, the benefits may ripple into your own life as well. This super soft and cozy bed was designed to help dogs feel safe, secure, and relaxed. When your dog plops into the plush material, they’ll sink right in as if nuzzling into their mother’s coat. (It’s just too bad they don’t make one of these in human size!)
Shop Now
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say what
Look who’s talking
“Contemporary AI systems are now becoming human-competitive at general tasks, and we must ask ourselves: Should we let machines flood our information channels with propaganda and untruth? Should we automate away all the jobs, including the fulfilling ones? Should we develop nonhuman minds that might eventually outnumber, outsmart, obsolete and replace us? Should we risk loss of control of our civilization? Such decisions must not be delegated to unelected tech leaders. Powerful AI systems should be developed only once we are confident that their effects will be positive and their risks will be manageable.”

Future of Life Institute
In an open letter titled “Pause Giant AI Experiments” by the Future of Life Institute, over 1,000 technology leaders and researchers called for a 6-month pause on all AI development so that governments have some time to get their regulatory sh*t together. The letter, which was endorsed by the Tech High Priest himself Elon Musk, urges industry leaders to take a break from their frenzied race to “develop and deploy ever more powerful digital minds that no one — not even their creators — can understand, predict, or reliably control.” 😬 (If this sentiment resonates with you, you can add your signature to the ever-growing list of concerned people!)
The argument for getting a pet as you get older
Wednesday Kick Start
The argument for getting a pet as you get older
There are many good, valid reasons to not own a pet. But that’s not what we’re here to discuss today. Pets are linked to all kinds of health benefits, especially for folks beyond middle age.
For example, while it’s certainly more effort to own a pet than not, the concept of work is closely tied to a little thing humans crave: purpose. According to clinical psychologist Carolina Estevez, PsyD, the added responsibility that comes along with pet ownership is an excellent way to keep older adults feeling active and engaged while bringing joy and happiness into their lives.
Another great thing about spending time with pets is that they pull us back into the present moment. “The pet is not worried about tomorrow, they aren’t worried about the mistakes that they may have already made,” says Clinical Director of CertaPet Prairie Conlon, LPC, NCC. “They’re just happy to be with you and enjoying your presence.”
Curious but nervous about taking on a pet? Remember there are more options than just cats and dogs! Smaller animals like bunnies, guinea pigs, and lizards can make great companions without adding the pressure of three walks a day. Just make sure to follow the healthy pet-hygiene behaviors in the story above, as pet-borne illnesses can be more dangerous for less robust immune systems.
health stories you need
What we’re reading next
🦠 ️️️E.coli from ground meat may cause over 480,000 UTIs every year. Learn how this harmful bacteria travels from ground beef to your urinary tract, plus tips for staying UTI-free.
🚬 Can CBD help you quit smoking? New research suggests low concentrations of CBD can ease nicotine cravings. Here’s what else the study found.
🔉 Podcast: What psychiatry can and cannot do. Host Gabe Howard and author Daniel Bergner talk about how to have a more balanced understanding of the limits of modern psychiatry.
☕ ️️️Sure, coffee drinkers walk more, but they sleep less. Coffee has a bounty of health benefits, but it meddles with a crucial area of our health: sleep. Get the details here.
you’re up
In honor of today’s pet-themed special, we’re excited to announce the first annual Wellness Wire pet photo contest! (Bonus points for including details on how your pet helps you stay healthy.) In full transparency, we will be judging your precious pet on an undefined, ambiguous set of criteria. But if you win, they’ll get their 15 minutes of fame by being featured in an upcoming newsletter.
We want to see: The best photos of your sweet pets! Email them to us at (Please note that we may share your name and response in an upcoming newsletter!)
Last week, we asked you to tell us about a change you have made for the better. Hannah P. wrote in with this inspiring response.

At the start of the pandemic I was still recovering from trauma that happened a year before. With all the extra time I had, I started going outside more and working out. From there it has evolved and helped me so much! I now feel so much more confident in myself and just feel better overall. I would definitely recommend to anyone going through a hard time just to do one thing everyday for exercise (whether that’s a walk or something else) and see where that leads you.
Until next time,
Take care of yourself, and we’ll see
you again soon!
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a million hand washes.
Our website services, content, and products are for informational purposes only. Healthline does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should not be used as a substitute for medical advice from a healthcare professional. Healthline encourages you to make any treatment decisions with your healthcare professional.
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Our website services, content, and products are for informational purposes only. Healthline does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should not be used as a substitute for medical advice from a healthcare professional. Healthline encourages you to make any treatment decisions with your healthcare professional. Healthline is owned by RVO Health.

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