Dr. Anthony Komaroff has some very good advice about ways to prevent getting sick from your pets ("Take sensible precautions as a pet owner," Sept. 17). There are just a few clarifications we think are important.
When it comes to streptococcus, for example, the risk of dogs passing the bacteria to people is extremely low. Humans are more likely to serve as hosts for strep -- specifically, the form of strep that makes us sick -- and a more pressing concern is that we may pass this bacteria along to our pets. Getting a throat culture and treatment for your dog is not going to stop your family from getting strep throat; the real risk comes from other people.
In addition, we certainly agree that pregnant women should avoid cleaning a cat's litter box to prevent toxoplasma exposure, but the fact is people are more likely to be exposed to toxoplasma from soil or undercooked meat. Proper food preparation and hand washing can greatly prevent toxoplasmosis. In fact, proper sanitation steps such as these are the most important thing to prevent infections, whether they come from exposure to our pets, other people or the environment.
As Dr. Komaroff points out, regular visits to the veterinarian will not only promote your pet's health, but it is important for protecting the family as well. Pets bring so much to our lives and pet ownership should not be discouraged solely on the basis of disease potential.
Dr. W. Ron DeHaven
CEO, American Veterinary Medical Association