Safe For your Pet Should Always Equal Safe For You

In my last post I talked about Salmonella, a bacteria infection can effect a pet that has eaten contaminated food and people that have handled  contaminated food. This exposure can be extremely dangerous to someone with a compromised immune system, such as a person that is undergoing chemotherapy or a person that has had an organ transplant.  Our immune system protects us from disease, and when a person has cancer or HIV, their immune systems can become weakened. When a person has had an organ transplant, they rely on medications that suppress their immune system so that the body will not reject the new organ.  People with suppressed immune systems need to practice safety in living with and caring for pets, as they are more likely to contract disease from animals than most people. I am currently on a wait list for new lungs and as I share my life with animals, this is an area of concern that I feel is important to discuss.

But first, I think it is important to note that pets are good for our health because they:

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Blood Pressure

Cholesterol & Triglycerides

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Outdoor activity

The CDC, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have outlined simple pet safety tips that can help protect the health of people whose immune systems are compromised.

  • Wash your hands thoroughly after handling animals
  • Avoid direct contact with feces
  • Always immediately seek a veterinarian’s care whenever your pet is ill, especially for cats or dogs that have diarrhea
  • Feed you pet only high-quality per food. If you do provide supplemental eggs or meat, be sure they are well-cooked

If you have a cat in your home, try to have another person clean out the litter box on a daily basis. Do not keep litter boxes in areas where food is prepared and eaten. Do not handle stray cats and keep your cat indoors.

If you have pet birds, know that the cage lining should be cleaned daily and always wear disposable gloves when handling items that have come in contact with bird droppings.

If you get a new pet, avoid getting cats or dogs that are less than 6 months old, stray or ill as these animals would more likely carry disease.

Animals considered high-risk for a person whose immune system is compromised include:

  • Reptiles, lizards and turtles
  • Chicks and ducklings
  • Monkeys, exotic or wild animals


9 comments on “Safe Around Your Pet – When Your Immune System Is Suppressed

  • Hi Erin, thanks for the great informative article about the hygiene and related disease control with your pets.

    We have a cat and a dog, and cleaning the kitchen worktop daily is a must… Our cat is pretty, smells lovely but he actually uses the litter then jump on the kitchen cabinet with those feet.

    Also what we do sometimes is cleaning up the dog poo on our balcony….in dark, and accidentally trend on it! Needless to say we have to wash our sandals thoroughly.

    By the way you say try to have “another person” clean out the litter box, does it mean someone else rather than anyone in the household?

    Thanks again for great info.

    • Hi Ray, Cats are funny as they are constantly grooming themselves and yet they jump on the kitchen cabinet after a visit to to the litter box! My cat is also very clean, but she loves to hang out in any sink and i am not quite sure what the attraction is. When I mentioned “another” person cleaning out the litter box, I was referring to any other person in the household, just not the person whose immune system in suppressed. Thanks for pointing that out – I will be sure to clarify that.

      Take Care,


  • I love your website and information, probably because I love animals and pets, but also the writing is flawless.

    Thank you so much for your time. Our founding fathers were some wise individuals. I think that by the way of how The Constitution was structured, they saw it coming. Better yet, the corruption of the old world set red flags by which, for along time, we avoided similar issues.

    My hope, and big question is, “are we ready to observe, learn, and take action again to support our constitution, or will we choose to let someone else think for us?’ That’s what the monarchy was all about, right? Elitism, big money, special interest. That’s what fascism was all about. We still have the power to choose freedom, and to transcend, evolve and grow as a nation.

    Zachariah W.B. Campbell (Owner/Author) – Market Merchant (MM+)

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  • Thanks for the reminder about safe handling of pets when you live with a suppressed immune system. My husband and I live with HIV and we have four dogs. We are animal people and handwashing a regular habit in our house. The animals were recently ill from a flea treatment and we were handling clean ups for days. I am happy to report that they are all fine now and doing great.

    Since I take medicine for my HIV that keeps it undetectable, I sometimes forget that I do have to be careful in my own home, when household members (dogs) are not acting 100% healthy. This is was an excellent reminder to keep on top of hygiene habits for the whole house.


    • Hi Sarah,

      Thanks for stopping by and for your comments. Your life is a perfect example of why it is so important to take precaution when your immune system is suppressed. I wrote this article for people such as yourself, but also to get me prepared for when my immune system will be suppressed too. I wish the best for your and your dogs:-)

      Take Care,


  • Hi Erin, I really loved your post, I work in the medical field so I know the problems that may occur to people with a weakened immune system. Unfortunately, for them it’s much easier to get a bacteria from animals, just like you said.
    That’s why your tips are really useful. I always wash my hands after touching my cats, even though I’m pretty healthy, it’s always better to make sure. I agree that it’s good to feed animals with high quality food, in this way they’ll be less likely to become sick because of food.
    Thanks for these tips, I really enjoyed your article.

    • Hi Ashley,

      Thanks for reading my post and for your great comments. I have always assumed the importance of washing your hands after handling pets and their food but now that I am waiting on a transplant I am practicing so it will be habit by the time I have surgery. You would laugh if you saw the big signs I have posted around my home so that my children develop these good habits too. My doctor originally advised me that if I did not have help caring for my pets, that he would say no to me having them. Since my pets are my family, I will do what is necessary to keep them healthy and me safe!

      Take Care,


  • Thank you for an educational post, Erin!

    I had no idea that it is possible to get infected with Salmonella through pets who ate contaminated food.
    I far as I understand, Salmonella is not dangerous for cats, dogs and other pets then?

    It is interesting as people who live on a farm are always exposed to animals and probably don’t wash their hands that often. Still, I can’t think of any farmers I know who get infected often. Do you think it can be attributed to a better immunity?

    • Hi Margarita,

      In dogs and cats, salmonella can cause inflammation of the digestive system along with sepsis. Salmonella is considered zoonotic, which means that it can be transferred to humans. I would assume that farmers have developed an immunity as they are consistently exposed. Thanks for your great questions!

      Take Care,


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