10 Ways Your Beloved Pet May Make You Sick from 10 Ways Your Beloved Pet May Make You Sick

10 Ways Your Beloved Pet May Make You Sick

Your dog just finished playing outside, and he is still full of excitement. When he sees you he jumps up on you and starts licking your face. The last thing you’re thinking about in that moment is catching salmonella, mange, E. coli, or ringworm.

Just like you can contract the cold or flu through friends and family, pets can also pass diseases to their owners. Among the most common diseases transmitted from pets to humans are intestinal parasites. This includes roundworms and hookworms. “While parasites can cause gastrointestinal upset in pets, they can cause blindness and very serious skin irritation in people,” Christie Long, chief veterinarian for PetCoach, says.

It’s important to educate yourself on the ways your pet may make you sick and take the necessary precautions to ensure that you and your best friend remain safe and healthy. This means keeping them vaccinated, watching them closely while they are outside, and checking them for ticks and fleas.

Intestinal parasites

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“Intestinal parasites, like roundworms and hookworms, can be transmitted to people from both dogs and cats. While parasites can cause gastrointestinal upset in pets, they can cause blindness and very serious skin irritation in people,” Christie Long, chief veterinarian for PetCoach, says. “Little kids playing outside in sandboxes or in dirt are especially at risk, and should have their hands washed frequently during play, since the eggs of these parasites can be transferred from the environment into mouths pretty easily.”

Leptospirosis

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“This bacterial disease of the liver or kidneys (or both, in some strains of the disease) has been getting lots of airtime recently, due to increased incidence of the disease in some parts of the country,” Long says. “Leptospirosis can be transmitted from a dog to its human if the urine of the infected dog contacts the mucous membranes — which may sound unlikely, but can happen, especially when hosing off areas where dogs have urinated.” There are very effective vaccinations against this disease, so make sure your dog is (and therefore, you are) protected, she adds.

Allergies

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“Most pet owners know if they’re allergic to dogs and/or cats, and tend to avoid owning that species. But occasionally a pet owner discovers an allergy they didn’t know they had, and this can make life extremely difficult,” Long says. “Spend time with any dog or cat you plan to adopt before bringing them home, to ensure that you don’t have any sensitivities to their fur or dander.”

Salmonella

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“Recently, there have been recalls of dry dog food due to concern for the presence of salmonella in the products. Salmonella can be transmitted to people through the skin, so handling dog food with your bare hands isn’t a great idea,” Long says. “Also, some reptiles, like pet turtles, can have the organism on their bodies, so make sure that children wash their hands thoroughly after handling these creatures.”

Ringworm

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“Ringworm isn’t actually a worm — it’s a fungal organism that causes itchy, scaly skin lesions in people and pets like cats and dogs. Cats and kittens that were housed in close quarters, like rescues and catteries, are very often affected,” Long says. “Getting rid of the organism can take several weeks of medication. Your kitty is infectious as long as there are lesions on its skin, so wear gloves while handling and disinfect the environment and bedding.”

Toxoplasmosis

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“Obstetricians used to routinely scare their patients into getting rid of their cats, over concern for transmission of this disease to unborn human babies,” Long says. “However, we now understand much more about how this disease is transmitted, and as long as pregnant women avoid litter box cleaning (yay!) transmission is nearly impossible.”

Mange

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“There are a couple of types of mange that dogs and cats can get, but the one that affects humans most commonly is sarcoptic mange, or scabies,” Long says. “This is an intensely itchy skin condition that causes hair loss and scaly, thickened skin on dogs, and can leave owners scratching like crazy, too, from these microscopic mites.” Make sure you get skin problems in your dog examined by your veterinarian ASAP, not only to get proper treatment but also to keep all of the humans from getting infected, she adds.

Cat scratch fever

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“Cats contract bartonellosis from flea bites, and most of them don’t even seem sick. They can, however, pass the disease on to humans through bites and scratches,” Long says. “Infected humans experience fever, lethargy, and swollen lymph nodes. You can protect your cat and yourself from this disease by using a good quality flea preventive every month.”

Plague

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“Cats that roam out of doors, especially near prairie dog colonies, can be infected with plague, as these rodents harbor the disease,” Long says. “Cats usually contract it by being bitten by the flea that transmits the disease through the colony.” Take note — if your sometimes-outdoor cat is lethargic, and has large lumps under the jaw, you must get to the vet immediately to determine if he or she could be infected with plague, as people can contract the disease easily from infected animals, she adds.

Giardia

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“This intestinal parasite isn’t a worm, it’s a single-celled organism that infects people who ingest water that is contaminated, or who come in contact with the feces of infected individuals,” Long says. “Research isn’t completely clear, but we think that people can be affected by the same strain of giardia that infects dogs, so don’t wait around too long to see what happens if your dog suddenly develops diarrhea. Get it checked out by your veterinarian.”