Can Your Pet Make You Sick?

I was recently reading a news article about a man who devastatingly lost his arms and legs after contracting a rare bacteria from his dog’s saliva. Just terrible!

Although this is an extreme and rare outcome it got me to thinking about just how much sharing is too much sharing when it comes to our pets. Lots of us share cuddles, kisses, beds and even food with our pets. There are even studies that say that cuddling and sharing a bed with your pet reduces stress and anxiety often leading to better sleep. Most of us will have no adverse effects from this sharing and catching something from your pet is a low risk but there are actually a few things that our pets can “share” with us that are less than ideal.

The main potential risks or things you could contract by sharing with your dog or cat include;

Parasites such as fleas and mites can be found on dog’s and cats but easily transmitted to people. Fleas will bite humans causing irritation and slight reactions at the sight with a number of bites possible. Mites can be passed from pets to humans and can cause mange or scabies. The mite can not survive long on people but will burrow under the skin causing itching and skin irritation.

Intestinal worms like tapeworm, hookworm and roundworm can be spread from pets to humans.
– Tapeworm eggs or larvae can be inhaled or ingested through by humans most commonly by ingesting an infected flea. Infestation in people can cause a number of gastric symptoms, cysts and intestinal blockages.
– Hookworms larvae can be contracted by humans through contact with contaminated soil and then burrow through the skin (usually the foot). Only the larvae stage can survive in humans typically causing skin irritation where it has burrowed in.
– Roundworms can only be contracted by humans via the eggs being ingested, from contaminated soil either by eating or not washing hands after contacting the eggs. The eggs then hatch in the intestines and the life cycle can be completed with the human body. Infestations can cause wheezing, coughing, lung damage and blockages within the digestive tract.

Ringworm is a fungal infection that causes circular skin lesions and can be contracted from an infected animal either through direct contact with the animal, a ringworm sore or from infected bedding or furniture.

Toxoplasmosis can be passed to humans through the faeces of an infected cat. If contracted symptoms include swollen glands, fever, muscle pain, sore throat, rash and it can cause miscarriages, stillbirths and premature births. Pregnant or immune-compromised people should avoid changing cat litter if possible.

Bacterial Infections can be passed from dog’s and cats to people. This usually happens through a scratch or bite where the bacteria can enter through broken skin. The bacteria passed on is often harmless to the animal but can cause mild symptoms from site inflammation, pain or localised infection to more severe cases where the bacteria can enter the bloodstream and spread throughout the body.

Allergies are a common problem from pets like dogs and cats particularly those that live inside or in close contact. People can be allergic to allergens found on pet hair, skin and saliva. Allergic reaction can range in severity from minor allergy symptoms like rash, sneezing, watery eyes to sever reactions like asthma, wheezing or hives.

No matter how much you like to share with your pet just keep in mind that they are animals and their makeup is different to ours which means that sometimes things that don’t bother them may very well be harmful to us. Their systems are designed to cope with different bacteria, infections and parasites to us and they can often handle what we cant. Keeping your pet in optimal health with regular parasite control and good hygiene practices will reduce the chance of the spread of any nasties or unwanted “sharing”.

If both you and are pet are in good health the chance of contracted anything from them is minimal so by all means love them, cuddle, kiss and share your bed with them but be aware what there is the chance that more sinister things could be shared.


Author: Bec

From a very young age Bec has always had a great love and appreciation for all animals. Bec is a qualified Veterinary Nurse and also has a Bachelor in Applied Science Animal Studies with special interest in Wildlife and Recreational Animals. Her studies have been put to good use working in various animal industries including small and large animal veterinary clinics, horse studs and the family cattle property. Horses have played an important part in her life, living on a horse stud and caring for horses throughout breeding, foaling, spelling, racing and retirement. Bec is the proud mum of two gorgeous girls, a beautiful Cocker Spaniel, chickens and many horses including a cheeky little pony.

2 Replies to “Can Your Pet Make You Sick?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.