Reducing the Spread of Disease When You Have Multiple Pets
What's worse than a sick pet? Three of them! Viruses and parasitic infections can quickly spread among your pets, making them feel miserable. Taking these preemptive steps when one of your furry friends shows signs of an illness can help you protect the health of the entire group.
Determine Who's Really Sick
Pets don't always show obvious signs of illness until they're very sick. The behavior stems from an instinctive desire to hide their illnesses from predators that tend to prey on weak animals. Unfortunately, those instincts may make it difficult to determine who's responsible for the puddle of vomit on your living room carpet or the pile of loose stools on the kitchen floor. Tracking down the culprit can be particularly difficult if your cats share litter boxes and you notice that one of them has developed diarrhea.
If you're not sure which of your pets is sick, separate them for the day. Place each of them in a separate room with adequate food or water. If you have cats or housetrained rabbits, be sure to include a litter box with fresh litter. Cover the floor with paper or wee mats to make clean up simple.
Although placing your dogs in their crates may seem like an easy way to determine which pet is sick, confining your pooches to small spaces may not be the best option if vomit or diarrhea is involved. In addition to cleaning the crate, you may also need to give your pet an emergency bath if he or she vomits or has an accident in the crate.
If you don't have enough room to separate each pet, sniff out the sick animal by process of elimination. Keep one pet in a separate room every day until you find out which of your furry friends isn't feeling well.
Prevent the Illness from Spreading
Whether one of your pets has a virus or a parasitic infection, there are a few things you can do to keep your other pets healthy, such as:
- Quarantining the Sick Pet. Place your pet in a quiet room stocked with a soft washable bed, food and water. Your pet needs extra attention during an illness. Be sure to make regular visits to the room to check on his or her condition and offer a few reassuring words.
- Washing Your Hands. Germs can linger on your hands after you pet your furry friend, clean up accidents or scoop the litter box. Wash your hands immediately after contact with a sick pet.
- Cleaning Bedding. Wash bedding, towels, food and water dishes and other items that your sick pet has touched to prevent the spread of disease. Don't forget to clean brushes too. If one pet has mange, the disease can quickly spread to other pets if you use the same brush to groom them.
- Using Separate Food and Water Bowls. Provide each pet with his or her own water and food bowl to prevent transmission of diseases through saliva.
- Finding a New Elimination Spot. Most dogs can't resist sniffing feces. Unfortunately, illnesses and germs can be transmitted when your pets check out a mound of freshly deposited stool. Germs can even linger in the grass after you've picked up stool. If your sick dog is well enough to eliminate outside, take him or her to a new spot far away from the usual elimination area in your yard.
- Keeping Vaccinations Up to Date. Vaccinations prevent your pets from developing a variety of illnesses, including distemper, rabies, bordetella and influenza. Because it takes a few weeks for your pet to build up immunity after receiving vaccines, it's important to ensure that all of your pets' immunizations are current.
- Treating Other Pets. In some cases, your other pets may need treatment, even if they display no signs of illness. For example, if one of your pets has tapeworms, chances are that they all do.
Preventing the spread of illnesses and infestations is particularly important if some of your pets are older or are very young. Because these animals tend to have weaker immune systems, it may be more difficult for them to fight off illnesses.
Are you concerned about your pets' health? We offer effective treatments for common diseases and illnesses and can provide immunizations that prevent your pet from becoming seriously ill. Call us to schedule an appointment for all of your furry friends.
Vet Street: Tips to Living with Multiple Pets, 10/1/12
PetMD: How to Quarantine Your Pet
ASPCA: Common Cat Diseases
AVMA: Disease Risks for Dogs in Social Setting