Guidelines for healthy pet handling

General guidelines for healthy pets and healthy people

The Public Health Agency of Canada recommends hand washing whenever you work or play with small mammals, including rodents.

  1. Pick the right pet for your family. Pet rodents are not recommended for families with children 5 years old or younger, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems because these groups are at greater risk for serious illness.
  2. Always wash your hands immediately after touching, feeding, or caring for pet rodents or cleaning their habitats.
  3. Play safely. Do not kiss, nuzzle, or hold rodents close to your face. This can startle your rodents and also increase your chances of being bitten or getting exposed.
  4. Never eat, drink, or smoke while playing with or caring for your pet.
  5. Be aware that pet rodents can shed germs that can contaminate surfaces in areas where they live and roam. But, you don’t have to touch pet rodents to get sick from their germs. Make sure rodent enclosures are properly secured and safe, so your pet doesn’t get hurt or contaminate surfaces.
  6. Keep pet rodents and their supplies out of the kitchen or other areas where food is prepared, served, or consumed.
  7. Clean and disinfect rodent habitats and supplies outside your home when possible.  If you clean rodent supplies indoors, use a laundry sink or bathtub and be sure to thoroughly clean and disinfect the area immediately after. Never clean rodent habitats or their supplies in the kitchen sink, other food preparation areas, or the bathroom sink.
  8. Talk to your veterinarian about your pet’s health. Your veterinarian can play a key role in helping you and your pets stay healthy.
  9. Tell your healthcare provider that you have been around pet rodents, whether at home or away from the home, especially if you are sick or have been bitten or scratched.  Some rodent germs can cause serious and life-threatening illness in people.

What to do if bitten by a small mammal, including rodents

Many types of germs can be spread from animal bites, even if the wound does not look very bad. If a bite from your small mammal breaks the skin, you should:

  • Wash the wound with warm soapy water immediately. Even healthy pets can carry germs.
  • Seek medical attention if:
    • Pet appears sick
    • Your wound is serious
    • Your wound becomes red, painful, warm, or swollen
    • Your last tetanus shot was more than 5 years ago
    • You develop sudden fever or flu-like illness in 1-2 weeks after being bitten

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