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Things to Know If You're Contemplating a Pet

Thinking ahead about the animal's and family's needs is key, expert says,,,,

SUNDAY, May 24 (HealthDay News) -- President Barack Obama and his family took their time selecting their new dog Bo, and that's something everyone should do when considering a new pet, says a University of Maryland School of Medicine expert.

"There are many health and safety concerns that should be addressed before bringing an animal into the home," Mary Beth Bollinger, an associate professor of pediatrics and interim chief of the pediatric pulmonology and allergy division, said in news release from the American Osteopathic Association.

"Individuals and families who are well-prepared will get the most enjoyment out of owning a pet," she said.

Bollinger suggested that anyone thinking about getting a pet:

  • Consider different kinds of animals and breeds and select the one that's best for your home and your family's needs. Carefully assess your family's routine of work, school, social activities and travel and choose a pet and breed that can live comfortably in your home and neighborhood.
  • Understand how to properly interact with your pet. Different kinds of animals and breeds have different traits and temperaments and need to be handled and cared for appropriately.
  • Realize that there are no truly hypoallergenic furred pets. Even single-coated or hairless dogs promoted as being hypoallergenic produce allergens -- allergy-triggering proteins found in the animal's dander, saliva and urine.
  • Remember that good hygiene is crucial for families with pets. Everyone should wash their hands after playing with or handling a pet. Homes should have pet-free zones, including bedrooms and any rooms where infants or small children are fed or left alone, such as nurseries and play rooms. Wash furred pets regularly to reduce the spread of germs and the amount of dander they produce. Reptiles can carry salmonella and other potential infections and shouldn't be in homes with children younger than 5 years old or children with weakened immune systems.
  • Buy pets only from reputable breeders or shelters. This helps ensure that you get a healthy animal that's had all its recommended shots.

Once a pet has joined the family, remember that annual checkups with a veterinarian reduce the risk of fleas, parasites and infections that can spread in your home.

More information

The American Veterinary Medical Association offers more advice for people thinking about getting a pet.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: American Osteopathic Association, news release, April 2009

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