Diseases You Can Get From Your Pets: Worms, Rabies, and More
Can Your Pet Make You Sick?
Zoonotic illnesses are diseases humans can get from animals. Many infectious diseases can spread from animals to people, and some of these can come from your pet. But before you become too alarmed, know that getting diseases from a pet is pretty uncommon, and that you can prevent most of them with some very simple steps. For example, teach children not to kiss pets or put their hands in their mouths after touching them. Frequent hand washing and regular vet checks are two other great ways to help prevent a wide range of diseases from pets. This includes diseases from dogs, diseases from cats, diseases from birds, or diseases from reptiles.
Zoonotic Illnesses You Can Get from Your Pet
These are a few of the more common diseases you might get from your pet. People with weak immune systems, such as those with HIV/AIDS, may be more vulnerable than healthy individuals and should take special care.
Caused by a virus and spread through bites, rabies is a disease that affects the nervous system and is generally fatal. Early signs may be fever or headache. This can quickly develop into symptoms of confusion, sleepiness, or agitation. Although rabies can be spread from pets such as a dog or cat, you are more likely to get it from a wild animal.
Reduce the risk of rabies:
Caused by a protozoan organism, toxoplasmosis may cause flu-like symptoms in some people. If you're pregnant or getting ready to become pregnant, it is particularly important to be aware of this disease as it can infect a fetus and cause an abortion or serious birth defect. You are most likely to get toxoplasmosis from eating partially cooked meat or from contact with animal feces while gardening. But you can also get it from contact with contaminated cat feces.
Reduce the risk of toxoplasmosis:
Cat scratch disease (bartonellosis)
This bacterial disease is spread from cat to cat by fleas, but people usually become infected from a cat scratch or bite. If you develop cat scratch disease, you may develop a mild infection and flu-like symptoms or more serious problems such as damage to the valves in the heart.
Reduce the risk of cat scratch disease:
Hookworm and roundworm
These are intestinal parasites routinely found in dogs and cats, particularly kittens and puppies. The worms' eggs or larvae are passed from pets through stool. You can pick them up through your skin from walking barefoot or playing outside. A young child might also accidentally eat the worm eggs.
Hookworm infection can cause painful and itchy skin infections or abdominal symptoms. Roundworm infections may cause no symptoms but can cause nerve or eye damage in some people.
Reduce the risk of roundworms and hookworms:
Most human tapeworm infections arise from ingestion of contaminated meats. However, children can pick up tapeworm parasites from cats and dogs by accidentally swallowing a flea infected with tapeworm larvae. Tapeworm segments may show up in stool or around the anal area on a pet or human. These segments look a little like grains of rice.
Reduce the risk of tapeworms:
Not really a worm, ringworm is caused by a fungal infection within the top layer of the skin. It is very contagious and dogs, cats, horses, other animals, and humans can pass ringworm to humans. You can also get it from touching surfaces that an infected pet or person has touched. On skin, ringworm causes a ring-shaped, reddish rash that may be dry and scaly or wet and crusty. It may also be itchy.
Ringworm is more likely if you have been sweating a lot or had a minor injury. Although it's difficult to prevent, ringworm responds well to self-care and treatment.
Reduce the risk of ringworm. If a pet or family member has ringworm:
Caused by bacteria, salmonella infection most often results from eating contaminated food. But pets can spread it, too, through their feces. Reptiles such as lizards, snakes, and turtles are likely sources of this infection, as well as chicks and ducklings. Dogs, cats, birds, and horses may also carry it. If you become infected, signs and symptoms may include stomach pain, diarrhea, and fever.
Reduce the risk of salmonella:
Psittacosis (Parrot Fever)
This is a bacterial infection that you can get from breathing in dried feces or respiratory tract fluids from infected birds. This includes parrots, parakeets, macaws, and cockatiels. It may be hard to detect this infection in birds because they often don't have symptoms. This makes prevention more difficult.
Reduce the risk of parrot fever:
Call your doctor if you develop flu-like or respiratory symptoms after having a sick bird. If you come down with psittacosis, your experience may range from no symptoms at all to severe respiratory symptoms.
Your pet can't transmit Lyme disease to you directly. But you can get it from ticks your dog or outdoor cat picks up. Ticks carry the bacteria that cause Lyme disease, which may cause no obvious symptoms. Or, it may cause:
Without treatment, Lyme disease can become a chronic condition over time, causing nerve and heart inflammation, mental changes, and pain.
Reduce the risk of Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses: