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Sick Like A Dog

CBS News This Morning medical correspondent Dr. Emily Senay gave us this report on diseases pets can give you.

They can relieve stress, lower blood pressure, and, of course, lick your neck. But as much as pets help keep you healthy and happy, they can also make you sick.

There are more than 100 zoonotic diseases - illnesses that are communicable from animals to humans - that common household pets can pass on. But there are steps you can take to protect your family against infection.

Take the bearded dragon, an iguana-like reptile that has achieved popularity as a pet. It, like other reptiles such as turtles and frogs, makes a great pet.

But reptiles can carry salmonella, a disease that can be passed from reptiles to humans, especially to children.

So, you still want to be a proud reptile owner? Keep your hands very clean. Be careful where you allow your reptile pet to go: Keep them off countertops or any surface that your food will touch. Keep them out of the bathtub, too. All these measures will fight the risk of salmonella.

Birds are great pets, too. They're friendly and pretty to look at. But they can pass along a respiratory illness called psittacosis. If not treated, it's serious, and, in fact, can be fatal.

One way to fight psittacosis is to keep the birdcage free from droppings. Keep in mind that a bird can spray infected particles from droppings into the air just by flapping its wings.

Also, some people are allergic to birds. Be aware of that possibility before you commit to one.

Fish, the tropical kind in particular, can pass along bacteria. And, if you have a sore on your hands and they come into contact with a fish, it can cause a small wound that won't heal.

Antibiotics are the cure. The prevention is to wear gloves while cleaning the fish tank if you have hand sores.

By now, maybe you're starting to think it is safest to stick with cats or dogs, as millions do. But even man's best friend can pass along some unfriendly diseases.

There are the obvious ones, such as rabies. Via bites and scratches, rabies is one of the few viruses transmittable from animals to humans.

And, cat scratch fever is more than just a Ted Nugent song. There really is such a thing. It's an infection that can be passed along to you when a cat scratch breaks your skin. The symptoms include enlarged lymph nodes and flu-like symptoms.

There are other infections passed on by both cats and dogs through saliva or feces, which can cling to the pet's claws or fur, causing diarrhea and fever.

In fact, cat feces can carry toxoplasmosis. Most people are immune to it, or suffer only a mild reaction. But it is a danger during pregnancy, as it can damage a fetus. Best advice: pregnant women should not clean the litter box, since the organism can be transferred to the hands or even inhaled.

Many animals - ferrets, rats, hedgehogs, what have you - have been adopted by pet lovers in recent years. The best advice s to only adopt pets that are domesticated.

A rat that has been bred in captivity is hardly a health threat. The one running around the subway, though. . . Let's not forget that these critters were carriers of the Bubonic Plague.

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