Rabbits, chicks and baby ducks are soooooo cute! It’s no wonder these adorable little animals are often given as gifts for children this time of year. If you are considering a live animal as an Easter gift this year, please read on….
First, be realistic. These animals will last far beyond the holiday. Rabbits can live for 10 years. Every year animals die because they were given as pets at Easter; then after the holiday is over, and the new wears off, the animal is abandoned. Once these cute little critters are “set free” they’re unlikely to survive. If you aren’t prepared to provide the long-term care needed, then perhaps a live pet isn’t the best Easter gift to give.
For those people who are prepared to take on the responsibility of a new pet this Easter, here are some guidelines to keep your family safe.
Do your research, especially if you have not raised this type of animal before. Ensure that you are providing everything the animal needs to keep it healthy. A sick animal is more likely to spread diseases than a healthy one.
Diseases that pass from animals to humans are called zoonotic diseases. These diseases can cause a variety of illnesses, from minor skin rashes to serious infections. For example, rabbits can spread ring worm and chicks can carry salmonella.
To avoid contracting an illness from any pet, it is a good idea follow these common-sense guidelines.
Supervise small children while they are handling the animal. Do not allow children to put the animal up to their faces to kiss or snuggle with them. Do not allow children to eat while petting the animal. Make sure your child washes their hands thoroughly with soap and warm water after handling the pet, and especially before eating. If your child has a wound, make sure it is covered before handling the animal.
Feces is the major source of pathogens from pets. Exercise caution when cleaning cages or bedding. Try not to breathe in the materials and make sure to wash your hands after the clean-up is complete.
Be sure to clean up any accidents that happen inside the home quickly and thoroughly. Once an inside mess is cleaned up, go back with a disinfectant to kill the pathogens. Bleach is a good disinfectant, as is Lysol, and any other product that claims to “kill germs” or is labeled as a “disinfectant.” Be aware that some cleaners do not kill germs. If you are cleaning feces, you need a cleaner that will disinfect. Just be sure to follow instructions on the label of what you are using, and remember it is not a good idea to mix cleansers. The last step in cleaning up any pet mess is to wash your hands.
Keeping your pets healthy, your environment clean, and your hands washed will go a long way toward keeping your family healthy this holiday season. Happy Easter.
Dawn Keller, RS, is employed by the Meigs County Health Department.