04/20/2015 03:41 EDT | Updated 07/11/2015 03:59 EDT

Practical advice on stopping spread of diseases from pets to people

TORONTO - Love and loyalty aren't the only things pets can give to the humans who care for them. Companion animals can also be a source of diseases for people, especially children and adults who have compromised immune systems.

Here's some advice on how to minimize the infection risks they pose:

— Wash hands after handling animals or their environment

— Keep cats' nails trimmed and try to limit scratches when playing with them

— Keep cats indoors and change their litter boxes daily. Wear gloves while changing a litter box and wash your hands afterwards. Keep litter boxes away from the kitchen

— Don't let pets drink non-potable water such as puddles or water from a toilet bowl

— Cover sandboxes when they aren't in use

— When you are cleaning an aquarium, don't dump the old water down sinks used in the preparation of food

— Don't let pets lick wounds or cuts. Discourage them from licking the faces of very young children or immunocompromised people

— Avoid contact with reptiles, amphibians, rodents and baby poultry; they can carry salmonella. These animals are not appropriate pets if there is a high-risk patient in the household

— Consider mature animals from reputable vendors when you are looking for a new pet. Young animals pose a greater infection risk