© 2018 by Assistance Animals Consulting

  • Rhesa Houston, DVM

4 Ways to Protect Human and Animal Health in Animal-Assisted Health Care


As we see more assistance animals out in public, it’s imperative these animals are healthy for the animal’s welfare and people who have contact with them. If they do not have regular and consistent veterinary evaluations, these animals can spread zoonotic diseases, a variety of serious diseases transmitted by animals to humans. Assistance animals help guide and support their handlers in countless ways. Hearing alert service dogs alert their handler to common sounds they can’t hear. Mobility assistance dogs help improve their handler’s mobility. They are trained to push buttons, open and close doors, retrieve objects and pull a wheelchair. Emotional support animals are prescribed on the basis of a disability-related need, commonly for mental health therapy. There are many more examples of how animals support humans, and it’s important we ensure all assistance animals remain healthy to protect the health of their handlers and the general public.


Individuals involved in human-animal intervention health care strategies need a comprehensive care strategy that includes a veterinarian. As with any health care plan, treatment should be properly monitored and managed. The veterinary human-animal intervention experts at Assistance Animals Consulting assist with monitoring and managing animal-assisted health care strategies to preserve human and animal health and wellness as well as the human-animal bond.


Evaluations from licensed veterinarians who specialize in animal-assisted health care interventions are vital to reduce the risk of and help prevent animal diseases from spreading to humans. Zoonotic diseases such as Leptospirosis, cat scratch disease, Lyme disease, rabies and more can be life-threatening and are a public health threat. Children younger than five years old, adults over 65 and immunocompromised individuals have a greater risk of contracting a zoonotic disease. The best way to protect these assistance animals and the humans around them is to take preventive measures that reduce the chance of spreading disease. Assistance Animals Consulting provides preventive care recommendations to ensure proper health care standards are met and that the animal isn’t exposing the general public to zoonotic diseases.


In our preventive care program, we assess:

  • The lifestyle of the handler to make preventive care medical recommendations for their assistance animal

  • The behavioral health of the assistance animal

  • The overall health of the assistance animal


Our veterinary team will recommend a medical care plan to ensure the assistance animal receives consistent health care and disease protection. The following four points highlight unique considerations, and the importance of consulting with a veterinarian who works primarily with human-animal teams.


1. Assessing the medical effectiveness of the human-animal partnership through Human-Animal Evaluations. Evaluating the assistance animal ensures it performs tasks and job functions properly. If the assistance animal’s ability is comprised, the handler’s health is at risk. This step is also important to evaluate and assess the mutual benefits of the human-animal bond.


2. Screening for deadly zoonotic diseases that can be passed from animals to humans. Zoonotic diseases are commonly spread through direct contact of saliva, blood, urine, mucus, feces or other body fluids of an infected animal. Zoonotic diseases can be spread through a scratch, bite or an animal licking someone’s hand or mouth. They can also be contracted from indirect contact with objects and surfaces that have been contaminated. It’s equally important to discuss pet food as zoonotic diseases can be transmitted through contaminated food, like a raw diet of undercooked meat.


3. Ensuring proper hygiene practices are used. Animal-assisted therapy programs in health care facilities, schools and assisted living facilities need to ensure people interacting with the assistance animals wash their hands after contact. Education on hygiene and safety in human-animal interactions will help protect human health.


4. Protecting public health by consistently consulting with veterinarians. We can help guide human-animal intervention health care plans. Consulting with our veterinarians, we can help to prevent veterinary related health problems from occurring or recurring through veterinary care education and initiating protocols to reduce disease transmission.



Together, we can pave the way for future health improvements in animal-assisted health care. At Assistance Animals Consulting, we collaborate and advocate for successful human-animal partnerships. We’re your paw partners in addressing animal health concerns. Contact us to learn more from our human-animal intervention veterinary experts. Let’s talk about how we can support you!