Pet Safety: Preventing Transmission of Animal Disease

Pets provide many benefits to humans. They comfort us and they give us companionship. However, some animals can also pass diseases to people.
Although animals can carry germs, it is important to know that you are more likely to get some of these germs from contaminated food or water than from your pet or another animal you encounter. Many groups encourage people to enjoy the benefits of common household pets. By following the tips on this website, you can enjoy your pets while protecting yourself against diseases they carry. Because wild animals can carry diseases that are dangerous to people, CDC and many physicians discourage direct contact with wildlife. You should never adopt wild animals as pets or bring them home. Teach children never to handle unfamiliar animals, wild or domestic, even if the animals appears to be friendly.

Pet Safety with Infants and Young Children

Small child dances in a pink and white dress
Dogs and puppies, pets and animals

Animal Safety Tips

Infants and children less than 5 years old are more likely than most people to get diseases from animals. This is because young children often touch surfaces that may be contaminated with animal feces (stool), and young children like to put their hands in their mouths. Young children are less likely than others to wash their hands well. Objects such as pacifiers may fall to dirty surfaces and then be placed in an infant's mouth. For some animal diseases, young children are more likely than others to get very sick.

Tips to protect infants and young children from getting sick while handling animals:mother with baby

    * Children younger than 5 years old should be supervised while interacting with animals.
    * Children should not be allowed to kiss pets or to put their hands or other objects into their mouths after handling animals.
    * Childrens' hands should be washed thoroughly with running water and soap after contact with animals.
    * Handwashing prior to breast feeding or preparation of formula is
      strongly recommended.


Although this section focuses on how to protect children from diseases from animals, many groups support the health benefits of animals for people, including children.

CDC recommends that infants and children under 5 years old avoid contact with the following animals:

    * Reptiles (lizards, snakes, and turtles)
    * Amphibians (frogs, toads, newts, and salamanders)
    * Baby chicks
    * Ducklings
    * Petting zoos

Additionally, children less than 5 years old should be extra cautious when visiting farms and having direct contact with farm animals, including animals at petting zoos and fairs.

The information on this site was produced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other government sources and has been compiled by the site owners, who are not responsible for accuracy or completeness. Site design and layout are trademarks of

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