Periodically, pet owners may be exposed to blood from a pet. This can range from exposure to small amounts of blood through minor injuries like cut foot pads or broken toenails, to large amounts of blood following severe trauma.
In people, there are detailed protocols for avoiding blood exposure in healthcare situations, and protocols for managing people exposed to human blood in hospitals and in the community. This is mainly driven by concerns about HIV and hepatitis viruses that can be transmitted by contact with blood. But these viruses are not present in animals, and the risks of transmission of disease from pets to people through blood are very low. Even contact with blood from a rabid animal is not considered rabies exposure, because the virus is found in the saliva, not the blood. This has led to a rather cavalier approach towards blood exposure in veterinary medicine, which is understandable but not ideal. New infectious diseases continue to emerge in animals and people, and eventually there is likely to be one that can be transmitted between species by blood. Therefore, it is prudent to try to reduce exposure to animal blood when possible, but without getting overly concerned (or paranoid).
- Direct contact with animal blood should be avoided whenever possible.
- In particular, avoid getting animal blood on any cuts, scrapes or other broken skin, and avoid getting the blood in your mouth, nose or eyes.
- If you do get animal blood on your skin, wash it off as soon as possible.
- While it is extremely unlikely for a person to get sick from touching animal blood, make sure you tell your physician about the incident if you do become ill.