Pets come in all sizes, shapes, colors and breeds.
They become part of the family. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, approximately 60 percent of U.S. households have at least one dog, cat, bird or other companion animal.
Pets provide many benefits to their owners -- companionship, joy, unconditional love, a sense of safety and in some cases, a specific service.
They're fun to be with every day and make us feel good.
In spite of all we do to keep our pets safe and healthy, there are times they may pass germs to us.
There are ways, however, to enjoy your pets while protecting yourself against diseases they may carry.
The following tips are from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
* Thoroughly wash your hands after coming in contact with an animal, its toys, saliva or feces,
* Make sure animals have clean water and fresh food as these can become contaminated and possibly carry unwanted germs,
* Protect yourself and others from bite and scratches.
If you are bitten or scratched, cleanse the area thoroughly and seek medical attention if the area becomes infected,
* Check animals for fleas, ticks and other pests that may carry disease,
* Vaccinate pets against rabies and other diseases on a regular basis, and
* Never handle unfamiliar or wild animals, even when someone tells you, "he won't bite."
A healthy pet is a happy companion.
Taking a few extra steps can help ensure you and your pet have a long, happy, healthy life together.