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Pets | Overview

Your home and staying healthy with pets

Pets are wonderful playmates! Also, studies show that they improve physical and mental well-being.

Keep reading to see how you can maximize the benefits of having another friend under your roof!

Illustration of a pet bed and a bowl of dog food

How often do you clean your pet’s space?

Pet supplies and living spaces are the perfect growing place for bacteria that can get you and your pet sick.

  • Keep pet food and supplies away from places where you eat and drink.
  • Clean your pet’s space and supplies often.
    • Clean outside the home when possible. Or, use a laundry sink or bathtub and disinfect used areas.
  • Wash dog and cat food bowls daily.
  • Use stainless steel dishware when possible.
  • Avoid leaving food out overnight.



Dog taking a bath with a washrag and shampoo next to tub

Does your pet go outside?

Chemicals in the environment can be tracked into your home by pets that spend time outside.

  • Clean off paws before they re-enter your home
    • Use a paper towel or washcloth soaked in warm water.
  • Brush and bathe them regularly. Ask your vet about how often to wash your pet.
Illustration of dustpan and bag filled with animal feces

Do you pick up your dog’s feces (poop)?

Dog waste can be in the air we breathe and the water we drink. This can cause us to get sick and can harm the world around us.

  • Always pick up after your dog in your yard and in public places. Seal the bag and place it in the trash!
Illustration of cat playing with a ball of yarn

Do you enjoy playing with your pet?

Great! Pay attention to these tips to keep everyone safe.

  • Watch young children when they are around pets to teach safe play.
  • Avoid rough play to prevent injury.
  • Always wash your hands after playing with your pet.
Illustration of chicken and laid eggs

Do you have backyard chickens? Do you eat their eggs

Chicken eggs may contain lead if the chickens live on contaminated soil. When eaten, the lead can threaten a child’s healthy development.

  • Consider testing your soil for lead to make sure your chicken eggs are safe to eat.

For information on soil testing, contact the University of Massachusetts at Amherst by calling 413-545-2311.

To learn more about sources of lead exposure, visit

Illustration of an inhaler and a box of tissues

Does anyone at home have allergies or asthma?

Particles in a pet’s fur, dead skin flakes (dander), urine, and feces can trigger or worsen asthma and allergy symptoms.

  • Vacuum carpets and furniture when the person is not around.
  • When possible, keep the pet:
    • outside the bedroom
    • off furniture
  • Reduce clutter and dust frequently with a damp cloth.
  • Bathe your pet with special shampoo to reduce dander. Talk to your vet for further recommendations.
  • Use air cleaners with a HEPA filter.

Visit these sites for more information:

Illustration of bugs and germs

Is anyone at home at greater risk of sickness?

Pregnant women, children under 5 and adults age 65 or older are at greater risk of getting sick from animals.

  • Pregnant women should avoid contact with cats and rats. They should avoid handling cat litter.
  • Families with young children should avoid adopting pets such as lizards, frogs, turtles, and chickens. They can spread salmonella and other germs.

For more information on how to keep your pets and your family healthy, visit

This document was supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) as well as the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, New England Chapter. It was funded (in part) by a cooperative agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (CDC/ATSDR). The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) supports the PEHSUs by providing partial funding to CDC/ATSDR through an interagency agreement. The findings and conclusions presented have not been formally disseminated by CDC/ATSDR or EPA and should not be construed to represent any agency determination or policy. Use of trade names that may be mentioned is for identification only and does not imply endorsement by the CDC/ATSDR or EPA.
Logos: pediatric environmental health center, allergy and asthma foundation, pehsu