Talk to clients about zoonoses.
The "presents" she's leaving barely entered my mind last winter. But now that freezing temperatures are giving way to warmth, my brood and I are spending more time outdoors. Of course, I know to steer clear of suspicious-looking mounds, but my daughter and cat (an indoor pet with occasional outdoor privileges) seem to be controlled by homing devices that guide them directly to the little lumps. In spite of my diligent efforts, I'm certain that by summer's end, at least one of them will come into direct contact with a "gift" from the roaming cat.
Kerry Hillard Johnson
All this makes me acutely aware of the risk of zoonotic diseases. Unfortunately, I don't know all there is to know about the illnesses pets and people can share. When I was pregnant a couple years ago, I knew I'd found the perfect excuse for passing litter-box duty to my husband. But I didn't really understand why—and I'd worked on veterinary publications for years.
Odds are good that the average client needs to learn more about zoonotic diseases. Start the education by telling every client about the importance of parasite control (see "Extreme makeover: Parasite edition" for resources). This is a year-round topic, but spring and summer provide a particularly apt opportunity to talk about zoonoses and heat-loving pests.
As our lives become more intertwined with animals', you're uniquely poised to keep pets and people safe. Teach clients how to prevent diseases from spreading between two-and four-legged creatures. And be ready to answer questions about animal-related news, like swine flu and why you call it H1N1 influenza A. When you provide reliable information that helps keep every family member healthy, even the mulch-piling stray will thank you.
Kerry Hillard Johnson, Editor