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Organ Transplant Patients

 Pair of puppies

Pet Safety Tips

Patients who have received organ transplants are more likely than most people to get diseases from animals. However, simple tips can be followed to reduce their risk of getting sick after contact with animals. These recommendations were originally made for bone marrow transplant patients, but they also may be useful for other organ transplant patients. Although this section focuses on how to protect organ transplant patients from pet related diseases, many groups support the health benefits of pets.

Keep Clean!

Wash your hands thoroughly with running water and soap after handling animals and their feces (stool). If possible, you should avoid direct contact with animal feces. Adults should supervise the hand washing of children.

Caring for Your Pet

If your pet is ill, seek veterinary care as soon as possible. Any cat or dog that has diarrhea should be checked by a veterinarian for infection with Cryptosporidium, Giardia, Salmonella, and Campylobacter.

Caring for Birds: Bird cage linings should be cleaned daily. Wear gloves whenever handling items contaminated with bird droppings. Routine screening of healthy birds for zoonotic diseases is not recommended.

Caring for Fish: Avoid cleaning fish tanks by yourself; ask a family member or friend for assistance. If this task cannot be avoided, you should wear disposable gloves during such activities. Wash your hands thoroughly with running water and soap afterwards.

Caring for Cats: If you have a cat try to have another person clean out litter on a regular (daily) basis. Do not place litter boxes in kitchens, dining rooms, or other areas where food is prepared and eaten. Keep your cat indoors. Avoid handling stray cats. Pet cats do not need to be tested for toxoplasmosis.

Feeding Your Pet

Just like people, pets can get diseases from eating contaminated food. By protecting your pet from foodborne diseases, you can protect your own health as well. Pets should be fed only high-quality commercial pet foods. If eggs, poultry, or meat products are given to your pet as supplements, they should be well-cooked. Any dairy products given to your pets should be pasteurized. Additionally, pets should be prevented from drinking toilet bowl water and from having access to garbage. Do not let your pet scavenge for food, hunt, or eat other animals' feces.

Getting A New Pet

When getting a new pet, avoid animals that are ill, stray, or young (cats and dogs less than 6 months old). These animals are more likely to carry diseases that can make you ill.

Animals to Avoid

The following animals are considered high-risk animals for immunocompromised people (including organ transplant patients):

  • Reptiles, including lizards, snakes, and turtles.

  • Baby chicks and ducklings.

  • Exotic pets, including monkeys. Note: All persons should avoid direct contact with wild animals. Do not adopt wild animals as pets or bring them into your home.

Contact with these animals and their environments should be avoided by people with compromised immune systems. If you do touch these animals or their environment (their food or cage, for example), wash your hands thoroughly with running water and soap. Additionally, organ transplant patients should be extra cautious when visiting farms and when in contact with farm animals, including animals at petting zoos and fairs.

These pet safety guidelines for bone marrow transplant patients were developed from the following CDC resource: Guidelines for preventing opportunistic infections among hematopoietic stem cell transplant recipients. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, October 20, 2000; 49(RR10):1-128.


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