Can My Pet Make Me Sick?

Published: October 4, 2017

Academy Animal Hospital Greenwood Franklin

Academy Animal Hospital, Greenwood, Indiana

There are more than 140 million dogs and cats in the United States. That’s a lot of pets! It’s also a lot of potential for sharing bacteria and viruses between animals and humans.

If you wince every time your dog licks your child, here’s some good news: Although it’s possible to catch pet diseases, it’s far less likely if you have proper pet healthcare and sanitary precautions. Here are some tips.

Practice Preventive Care

Some illnesses that are common among housepets - like distemper, canine parvovirus, and heartworms - are not transmittable to humans. They’re also very preventable. See your veterinarian about vaccinations and treatments for these common pet diseases.

When you have health concerns and visit a vet with your pet, it involves an exam plus fecal and blood tests that reveal any potentially harmful diseases. If something could spread to you, like ringworm, which is not worms but a highly-contagious fungal infection, your vet will let you know so you can protect your family.

Educate Kids

Kids are more likely than adults to catch and spread diseases from pets. Why? For the same reason they are more likely to catch colds and the flu. They tend to put their hands in their mouths, have open wounds, and wash their hands less frequently than adults.

If you have pets, educate children about the basic risks from germs. There’s no need to scare them, of course, but they need to know a few tips for limiting the spread of diseases.

Tips for kids:

● Wash hands frequently in general

● Wash hands after playing with a pet, especially if they lick you

● Avoid letting pets lick you directly on the mouth or eyes

● Tell an adult if your pet has cuts or other wounds

● Tell an adult if a pet bites or scratches you

● Don’t play with a pet while the pet is sick

● Don’t touch other people’s animals without permission

● Babies and young children should generally avoid birds, reptiles, and amphibians due to higher risk

Eliminate Secondary Sources

Beyond direct transmission - through pet licks, scratches, and bites - there are also indirect ways you can catch things from your pets. Fleas and ticks can crawl off your pet and into your carpeting or furniture.

Luckily, there are very effective flea and tick treatments for pets. A veterinarian can prescribe them on a regular schedule to keep insects off your pets and out of your home.

Special Medical Situations

It’s important to note that people with certain health situations should avoid pets. Someone who has AIDS or is otherwise immunocompromised is at far greater risk of severe effects from pet-related illnesses. Make sure that your household pet never licks, bites, or scratches someone with an immune disorder.

For More Information

Still concerned about diseases and infections from pets? Here are some additional resources.

Click here to see the Center for Disease Control’s official list of diseases that can be spread from pets to people. Remember, some of these are extremely rare.

Click here for a list of additional tips to keep kids healthy around pets from KidsHealth.org.

Click here to contact Academy Animal Hospital and ask about a specific illness or any other concerns you have about pet health.