Pets offer so many benefits, helping stay active and helping to feel more relaxed and giving us a distraction away from cancer. Petting animals releases endorphins that relieve stress, this can help you forget about any frustrations or side effects for a period of time.
But cancer treatment can weaken your immune system, so you may need to take extra precautions to keep the risk of infection low. One top tip is to keep your pet’s nails trimmed. This is not only because of infections but as some treatments can stop your blood from clotting. This happens as the number of platelets in the blood is reduced.
Platelets are the cells that help your blood to clot and stop bleeding. When your platelet count is low, you may bruise or bleed a lot or very easily and have tiny purple or red spots on your skin. This condition is called thrombocytopenia. It is important to tell your doctor or nurse if you notice any of these changes.
If you do get scratched, clean it well and keep it covered. If it becomes red, warm, swollen, or oozes pus, call your healthcare team as soon as possible.
It is important to ask someone to clean up after pets. If you need to clean up, wear gloves and wash your hands well afterwards. If cleaning a litter box, wear a mask to avoid inhaling the litter dust and keep the litter box away from the kitchen and dining room.
If your pet is sick from vomiting, diarrhoea, or sneezing, take your pet to the vet right away. Your pet may have an infection that could be passed on to you if your immune system is weak. Also super important to keep pets up-to-date on vaccines like, heartworm prevention, and flea and tick medications.
Unfortunately some pets and animals do need to be avoided during cancer treatment. Reptiles, chickens, ducks, and rodents can carry salmonella and other germs that may cause infection. Salmonella can lead to severe diarrhoea, and it can be especially dangerous for cancer patients.