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Is Your Pet's Hygiene Making You Sick?

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- If you feel like you're doing everything possible to avoid a nasty cold this winter season, you may be overlooking the one culprit infecting you without even knowing.

Furry roommates can bring such joy to your life and even have measurable effects on your health like lowering high blood pressure. But veterinarian Dr. Taylor Truitt said man's best friend can be giving you more than your share of love.

"We don't live in the cleanest part of the country," Truitt told CBS2's Alex Denis. "They can track in bacteria and different surroundings from the outside."

Which means it's important to think about hygiene to avoid germs passing from pet to owner, starting with what your pet drinks.

"There's a bacteria that lives in all five boroughs called leptospirosis. It's transmitted by rats, mice, squirrels, raccoons," said Truitt. "Dogs go out and drink from these puddles, it then goes on to cause acute kidney failure and liver failure."

Th disease, preventable with a simple vaccine, can be transferred to people through urine and can cause the same kidney and liver failure.

And when you pick up after your dog, be sure to thoroughly wash hands.

"Round worms, whip worms, giardia which are all zoonotic, which means it's transferable from your dog to you," said Truitt.

And a more common concern is fleas. Pet groomer Mario Bardouille said bathing your dog regularly and doing simple checks at home can make a big difference.

Run your hand against the animal's fur checking for flea dust, scabs or signs of dry spots that may actually be parasites.

You can also brush their teeth with animal tooth paste to cut down on bacteria and wipe of their paws whenever returning from outside.

"If he's groomed, taken care of, with good dental hygiene, that's creating a good habit and actually prolongs life," said Bardouille.

Cats aren't excluded from this list. Kittens, in particular, can spread ring worm especially to children.

If you do take your dog to be groomed, every one to three months is typically a good rotation.

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