Think before you plant a big kiss on Fluffy or Spot - some germs could be transmitted


February 27, 2005|By Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon

Is it unsanitary to kiss your dog or cat on the mouth? Does it cause colds, sore throats or other problems?

It is unlikely that you will catch a cold from your dog or cat. They're not susceptible to these viruses the way humans are. Kissing your pet is not sanitary, though. Just think how an animal grooms itself.

Some germs could be transmitted from pet to owner. Cats can carry Pasteurella multocida, which can cause sinus infections in humans. Dogs might be infected with Bordetella bronchoseptica (kennel cough), which could pose a problem, especially for immune-compromised patients. Such patients might also be susceptible to strep and staph infections carried by pets. Children should be taught to wash their hands after playing with the family pet. Hookworm and roundworm are transmissible.

I have suffered with mild depression off and on for years. I have taken a variety of prescription antidepressants. With each of them, either I experienced side effects, or the drug eventually lost effectiveness. I recently started taking St.-John's-wort, and it is working surprisingly well. My doctor said it can be dangerous with other drugs, but he wasn't sure which ones. What can you tell me about side effects or interaction problems?

Some people find that St.-John's-wort relieves mild depression without some of the side effects associated with prescription medications. Drugs like Prozac, Zoloft and Lexapro might cause sexual dysfunction as well as insomnia and nausea. St.-John's-wort does interact with dozens of other medications, including birth control pills, the blood thinner Coumadin, the heart medicine digoxin (Lanoxin) and cyclosporine (a drug to suppress the immune system for organ-transplant patients). This herb might also make eyes and skin vulnerable to sun damage. In the winter, this danger is reduced.

I was shocked to read that enteric-coated aspirin may damage the small intestine. Would buffered aspirin products like Ascriptin be safer? Is buffered aspirin different from enteric-coated aspirin?

Buffered aspirin is supposed to dissolve in the stomach rather than the small intestine. While it might be somewhat less irritating to the digestive tract than standard aspirin, regular use may still increase the risk for an ulcer. You should be under medical supervision if you're going to take it.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 888 Seventh Ave., New York, NY 10019, or e-mail them via their Web site:

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