Health Alert: Pet health tips

NATIONAL - More than half of all US households own a pet, and while pets provide companionship and comfort, they can also pass along up to 200 diseases to humans.

Here are some tips to ensure you're not on the short end of this tale.

Maggie is an 11-week-old Cocker Spaniel puppy and the newest member of the Moreau family.

Seven-year-old Merit just can't get enough of her. But Merit's mother has her concerns.

Megan Moreau says, "Having a child around and having her and the dog in her face, and playing with it after the dog's been outside, I did consider that."

Puppies are precious, but diseases they can carry, like rabies and ringworm, can be dangerous.

So a visit to the vet should be the first order of business for new pet owners.

Dr. Bonnie Beaver says, "One of the things the veterinarians will check for would be for intestinal parasites. Dogs and cats can have intestinal parasites that people can get when they come in contact with the feces."

Furry felines can pass along toxoplasmosis. It can cause birth defects, so pregnant women should avoid cleaning the litter box.

Most people link salmonella with chickens, but horses can carry the bacteria, too.

Dr. Beaver said, "The horse picks it up and the person then handles horse feces, whether from grooming the animal, from cleaning out a stall and then they ingest that and develop salmonella. Most of the things horses get really do not transfer to humans, so they're a relatively safe pet."

For now, the Moreau's are making the most of their time with maggie and playing it safe with regular vet visits.

The risk of contracting a disease from a pet is relatively small. Children under five, the elderly, pregnant women, organ transplant patients and those with weakened immune systems are most at risk.

The good news, experts say simple hand washing can prevent most potentially dangerous pet diseases.

Posted by Bryce Mursch