Whether you are playing with, feeding, or cleaning up after your pet, it is important to wash your hands to help reduce the risk of getting sick from germs pets can carry. If you or a family member are concerned about illness, talk to a doctor and mention the animals you’ve had contact with recently.

Always wash hands:

• After touching or playing with your pet

• After feeding your pet or handling pet food

• After handling pet habitats or equipment (cages, tanks, toys, food and water dishes, etc.)

• After cleaning up after pets

• After leaving areas where animals live (coops, barns, stalls, etc.), even if you did not touch an animal

• Before eating and drinking

• Before preparing food or drinks

• After removing soiled clothes or shoes

Running water and soap are best for hand washing, but you can use hand sanitizer until running water and soap are available. Adults should always assist young children with hand washing.

In addition to hand washing, practicing good pet hygiene can help prevent the spread of germs between pets and people.

Keep pets and their supplies out of the kitchen and disinfect pet habitats and supplies outside the house when possible. Never clean supplies in the kitchen sink, food preparation areas, or the bathroom sink. Pets can contaminate surfaces in your home with germs — you don’t have to touch pets to get sick from their germs.

Always remove your dog’s feces (poop) from your yard and public places by using a bag and dispose of it in proper areas, then wash your hands with warm soap, water and dry with a paper towel. Dog and cat poop can contain parasites and germs that can be harmful to people.

Keep children away from areas that might contain dog or cat poop to prevent them from getting roundworms and hookworms. Cover sand boxes so cats don’t use them as a litter box.

Clean the cat’s litter box daily to lower the chances of exposure to harmful parasites. Remember, pregnant women should avoid changing a cat’s litter box if possible, due to toxoplasmosis.

Toxoplasmosis (tok-so-plaz-MOE-sis) is a disease that results from infection with the Toxoplasma gondii parasite, one of the world’s most common parasites.

Infection usually occurs by eating undercooked contaminated meat, exposure from infected cat feces, or mother-to-child transmission during pregnancy. Source: cdc.gov and Mayoclinic.org

Julie Buck, EdD, RDN, is a registered dietitian, who is employed as a Family and Consumer Sciences Educator at the University of Idaho Extension, Bingham County. She can be reached at (208)785-8060 or jhbuck@uidaho.edu.