30 Diseases Humans Can Get From Pets
Pet lovers treat their precious animals like part of the family. Somehow, pets crawl into their hearts, and soon they can’t imagine their lives before they had their pet. Pets are allowed to climb on the furniture, sleep in the bed, and eat from the table. Choosing a pet is not easy. There are so many options out there. You can choose between dogs, cats, hamsters, birds, reptiles, and fish. A lot of times, owners have to choose their pets according to their living circumstances such as the size of their home.
Most of the time, choosing a pet is about personal preferences. Many people choose to have multiple pets of all different kinds. Natural enemies such as cats and dogs coexist peacefully in the same home with the same owner. But lurking beneath the surface, our beloved animals may unintentionally cause their owners harm. Animals, like humans, carry illnesses with them. And the diseases are not limited to wild animals only. While it may seem unlikely that Fido could give you anything else than cuddles and love, there’s a chance he could make you very sick.
Here are 30 diseases your pet might give you and what to do to prevent them:
Despite its name, ringworm is a fungus and not a worm. To attack your pet’s body, the fungus needs to attach itself to skin that has been recently scratched or injured. A case of ringworm manifests itself with circular patterns. The hair around the ringworm falls out. Juvenile cats and dogs tend to contract ringworm. It’s also possible for hedgehogs, chinchillas, and rabbits to get ringworm too. In some cases, especially among cats, animals become silent carriers of the disease. They never show any signs of ringworm but may pass it on to others.
The fungus that causes ringworm contains spores. These spores easily become airborne. If they touch scratched skin, the fungus may be passed to the pet owner. The human skin will show the same circular patterns. Topical treatment with ointment will be necessary. Take pets with ringworm for immediate treatment. Wear gloves while applying ointment to the affected area.
Roundworm infection can have a significant effect on human beings. Cats and dogs are susceptible to roundworm. The symptoms of roundworm infection in a pet include diarrhea, vomiting, and bloody stools. The worms themselves may be visible in the excrement itself. Children are most likely to contract a roundworm infection due to developing hygiene habits. They might not wash their hands frequently enough after being around pets and outside where pets do their business.
The curiosity of toddlers sees them putting many of the things they discover in their mouths. If ingested, the worm takes hold, and the infection begins. The worm larvae may also embed themselves in the skin. The worms may be distributed throughout the body. Coughing, abdominal pain, and bloody stools could indicate a human infection. In pets and their owners, anti-parasitic medication is needed to eliminate roundworm. Regular hand washing with disinfectant after pet handling can prevent infection.
Salmonella is a bacterium that attacks the intestines of both pets and humans. An infection can be likened to that of an incidence of food poisoning. Under normal circumstances, the body can ward off an attack. The person with salmonella will feel a few cramps and experience some mild diarrhea. However, in the case of the very young, the elderly, and people with suppressed immune systems, salmonella can be life-threatening or even fatal. In these cases, the sufferer will experience abdominal pain, vomiting, nausea, fever, and headache.
The pets that might pass salmonella onto their owners are reptiles, rodents, and amphibians. Juvenile turtles are constantly shedding salmonella which is why they should not be kept as pets. Washing their hands after handling such pets should be part of these pet owners’ routines. Pets should never be placed in the sink or in any place where food handling may take place.
27. Parrot fever
Parrot fever is otherwise known as chlamydia psittacosis. It’s an avian disease and might be passed on by other birds such as pigeons and turkeys. Unlike the name suggests, the disease isn’t only passed on by parrots. The bacterium chlamydia in parrot fever is not the same as the sexually transmitted chlamydia most people know about. The dander of an infected bird will contain spores of chlamydia psittacosis. These spores will be transmitted to its owner through inhalation. The feces of the bird will also contain the spores.
In birds, the symptoms of parrot fever include diarrhea and a lack of appetite. However, birds show no symptoms but still transmit the disease. Humans who contract parrot fever experience an illness much like pneumonia. Antibiotic treatment is needed. To prevent inhalation of the spores, clean the bird in a well-ventilated area or wear a mask. Wear gloves while cleaning the bird’s cage.
26. Cat scratch disease
Cats carry the Bartonella henslae bacteria as the common name suggests. A carrier cat shows no symptoms of the disease. The bacterium is in the cat’s saliva and in the fleas that might inhabit the cat’s fur. A bite from a cat can transmit the disease as can having a cat lick an open sore on their owner’s skin. A scratch from a cat can also pass the bacterium on.
A human with cat scratch fever will feel joint aches, fevers, and exhaustion. The area where the disease was passed on may also become inflamed or form a blister. Treatment may include antibiotics if the symptoms do not clear up. Cat owners should cover up any open wounds and treat scratches or bites with disinfectant immediately. Frequent hand washing after handling the cat, especially on skin that was licked can prevent the spread of the disease.
Transmission of tuberculosis is not limited to humans. Animals can catch tuberculosis and might transmit it to their owners. Dogs and cats tend to be resistant to tuberculosis. However, monkeys, cattle, and deer are more likely to get infected by Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Pet monkeys may pass the disease onto their owners. Like transmission of tuberculosis from human to human, proximity to the sufferer is dangerous because the disease is airborne. Coughing is the main way in which the disease is transmitted.
Asian and African monkeys are increasingly being kept as pets. This means there is a rising number of cases of tuberculosis transmitted to their owners. Tuberculosis treatment requires long courses antibiotics and medications. The regimen must be maintained for at least six months. Disturbingly, some new strains of tuberculosis have been discovered. They do not respond to tried and trusted conventional drugs as they are treatment resistant.
Most pet owners associate rabies with dogs. The incidences of rabies in canines are decreasing. This is attributed to a rise in the number of dogs having their annual shots. Bats, raccoons, foxes, and skunks in the wild can contract rabies. While these are not conventional pets, they could bite a pet such as a cat or a dog. Once pets contract the virus, they can pass it onto their owners through saliva and biting.
In animals, the symptoms of rabies present with frothy saliva, fever, seizures, and an overall change in behavior. Once a human contracts rabies, they will experience excessive fever, vomiting, fatigue, headaches, and a loss of appetite. Treatment for humans with rabies involves a series of post-exposure shots. Keeping pets’ vaccinations up to date will help to prevent the spread of rabies. If rabies is suspected, seek immediate medical attention. A lack of treatment could prove fatal.
A microscopic single-cell organism called Toxoplasma gondii can cause toxoplasmosis. Cats are the likely culprits in the spread of toxoplasmosis. The reason for this is their tendency to hunt birds and rodents. This parasite is excreted in the cat’s feces. The potential hazard occurs when a cat owner cleans the litter box and is exposed to the feces.
If a cat passes toxoplasmosis onto its owner, in most cases there will be no real illness. However, in some cases, people can become very ill as a result of toxoplasmosis. They display symptoms such as fever, headaches, sore muscles, and enlarged lymph nodes. In pregnant women, during the latter two trimesters of their pregnancy, toxoplasmosis may result in fetal abnormalities. In severe cases, the organs could be compromised and attacked by the parasite. Cat owners should use gloves and regularly clean their cat’s litter box. Pregnant women are advised not to clean litter boxes at all.
An animal infected with the leptospira bacteria excrete it in their urine. The disease is mostly associated with swine and rodents, although dogs can get it too. The most common cause is drinking stagnant water in which the bacterium is present. Another way the bacteria infects animals is through the soil. The bacteria survive for long periods waiting for an animal to infect.
An animal with leptospirosis will have a fever, vomiting, and diarrhea. These are common symptoms of illness. What’s important to look for is blood in the urine. This is an indicator that the pet has leptospirosis. Human symptoms include jaundice in addition to fever, muscle aches, vomiting, and headaches. Both pets and humans need to be treated with antibiotics to kill off the bacteria. Pet owners should try to make sure pets don’t have access to stagnant water and keep rodent pets indoors or in controlled outdoor areas.
21. Lymphocytic choriomeningitis
The word meningitis is enough to get anyone’s attention. Some forms of meningitis are so serious that they may cause permanent damage to the body or even death. Lymphocytic choriomeningitis is a disease that pet owners can get from rodents such as mice, rats, and hamsters. Handling rodents or cleaning their cages if they have lymphocytic choriomeningitis can transmit the virus. Infected body waste that touches a human’s mouth, eyes, ears, mouth, or damaged skin can pass the virus on.
The symptoms of the infection will be mild initially. The person will have fever, diarrhea, and vomiting. Untreated, the virus attacks the heart and brain, causing inflammation. This can have lasting physical and neurological effects. Pregnant women and people with suppressed immune systems are susceptible to lymphocytic choriomeningitis. Pet owners should make a habit of washing their hands with disinfectant as soon as they finish handling or cleaning a rodent.
The intestinal bacterium Shigella flexneri is carried by many monkeys. The monkeys, which are non-human primates, often carry the bacteria with no obvious symptoms or illness. Many people who are infected become carriers and don’t experience any sickness. The bacteria are transmitted through the handling of infected feces. Those that do experience symptoms after being exposed to shigella have diarrhea for about 2-3 weeks.
The bacteria itself isn’t life-threatening, but diarrhea can be fatal if not treated. Diarrhea causes the body to be expelling fluids before the rest of the body can absorb them. This leads to dehydration which is what could kill the infected person. Shigella is easily passed from one person to another through contact with the feces of the infected person. People who handle monkeys are susceptible to a Shigella infection. After handling a monkey, hands should be thoroughly washed with disinfectant soap before touching or handling anything else.
19. Lyme Disease
Lyme Disease is transmitted by ticks. As parasites, ticks actively seek a host. They attach themselves to the skin of animals like dogs and cats and feed on their blood. Most of the time, the tick has no real medical effect on the animal.
Humans are not that lucky. If a tick from a dog bites a human, it passes on the diseases it contains. These include bacteria, rickettsia, and spirochetes. The bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi causes Lyme disease. Several symptoms could indicate the presence of Lyme disease. A lot of pain is associated with the disease including joint pain, enlarged lymph nodes, and rashes. Antibiotics are needed to treat Lyme disease. Preventing pets from getting ticks is the best way to prevent Lyme disease. Pet owners should use products to deter ticks on their pets. When removing ticks from a pet, the owner should wear gloves.
18. The plague
Most people think of the plague as an epidemic that occurred in the 13th century which wiped out a third of Europe’s population. Known as the Black Death, there was no cure for the plague. Bubonic plague came to Europe in the fleas of the rats that inhabited the ships traveling the world.
The bacteria Yersinia pestis still lives in the fleas on the bodies of rodents. A bite of one of these fleas can make a human very ill. It’s possible for a cat to acquire the bacteria if it hunts a rodent that carries the flea. For pets, the plague makes them experience fever, swollen lymph nodes, and inflammation. A pet owner who contracts the plague will have a sudden onset of fever, headaches, weakness, and swelling of lymph nodes. The incidences of plague are very few. Today, the disease can be treated with antibiotics for both humans and animals.
17. West Nile Virus
The animals that tend to be infected by the West Nile virus are horses and birds. Humans are susceptible to the disease as well. The West Nile virus is a flavivirus transmitted by the bite of mosquitoes. The mosquitoes typically acquire the virus from biting a bird. As the mosquitoes continue to bite more animals and humans, the virus is spread. Most people who are bitten by a mosquito carrying the West Nile virus do not have any symptoms. Some people will have aches, pains, vomiting, diarrhea, and a rash. In rare cases, people can develop meningitis or encephalitis which are both diseases that cause severe inflammation.
There is no treatment for the virus itself. Patients receive treatment for the symptoms it presents. These include painkillers for mild cases. Severe cases will require hospitalization. Use mosquito repellent and take precautions such as wearing gloves when handling dead birds to prevent the spread of the virus.
16. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
The Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever bacteria is carried by ticks. The ticks acquire the bacteria when they feed on wildlife. The rickettsia rickettsii bacteria can make humans very ill. There may be no obvious symptoms in the dog or cat who carries the tick. However, if the tick bites a human, the bacteria can be spread. Symptoms of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever include fever, aches, headaches, nausea, and vomiting. Infected persons usually develop a distinctive rash as well. However, not every infected person will develop the rash.
Prompt treatment with antibiotics is needed. Like other tick-borne diseases, the condition progresses rapidly. With no treatment, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever could be fatal. There is a chance of severe inflammation of the brain, heart, or lungs as well as kidney failure. Pet owners should actively prevent their pets from bringing home ticks. When dealing with ticks, wear gloves, and disinfect your hands straight afterward.
15. Streptococcus and Staphylococci
The streptococcus and staphylococcus bacteria are two of the most common in the world. Pets carry these bacteria as do humans. For animals, an eye infection may be the result of a streptococci infection. Skin infections are often caused by a staphylococci infection. Pet owners who are treating such infections on their pets may pick up these bacteria, and themselves become ill.
Contact with the infected area can lead to transmission of the bacteria and infection. A bacterial infection can manifest itself in humans in a variety of ways. A sore throat or eye infection is common. When applying ointments to infected areas on their pets, pet owners should use gloves. Hand washing after handling the pet is highly recommended. Antibiotics are typically used to treat bacterial infections. However, many strains of these bacteria are becoming antibiotic resistant which makes them harder to treat and get under control.
The C canimorsus bacteria lives in the saliva of cats and dogs. Up to three-quarters of dogs and half of the cats carry the bacterium in their saliva. Most of the time, the bacteria have no harmful effects on the pet owner. However, there is a chance that the bacteria could cause an infection. Infections are rare but can be deadly. In most cases, the bacteria enter the human bloodstream as the result of a bit or scratch. However, some people have contracted the bacteria from their pet by simply being around them.
The complications that can arise from a C canimorsus infection include blood poisoning, meningitis, and severe respiratory distress. After the initial infection, symptoms such as fever, diarrhea, vomiting, and headaches will manifest. Untreated, the infection will progress. It is especially dangerous for pet owners with suppressed immune systems. Washing and disinfecting bites and scratches can inhibit the bacteria’s ability to cause an infection.
The hookworm is a parasite that lives in the intestines of a dog. They attach themselves to the intestinal wall. This may cause a good deal of internal bleeding and has been known to cause the deaths of puppies. The symptoms of hookworm in a pet include diarrhea, weight loss, and a failure to thrive.
Like all parasites, hookworms lay eggs. The eggs are excreted from the dog’s body in its feces. Accidental contact with the feces could infect a human being. For example, accidentally stepping on dog feces could allow the hookworm eggs to enter the body via the skin. The symptoms humans display when they have hookworms include stomach pains, loss of appetite, and anemia. Both pets and owners need antiparasitic drugs to get rid of a hookworm infestation. Feces should be picked up and disposed of regularly. Always wash hands after collecting feces before moving onto other tasks.
A flea infected with a tapeworm larva is the main way pets get tapeworm. Drinking from stagnant water is another way. Once the parasitic larva is inside the animal’s body, it attaches itself to the intestinal wall. The first indicator a pet owner will have that their pet might have tapeworm is the animal dragging its bottom on the ground. Tapeworm makes an animal’s bottom itch. The feces will contain whole worms or rice-like pieces which are excreted segments of the existing tapeworm. An animal with tapeworm will often vomit up smaller tapeworms too.
Accidental contact with the tapeworm through the vomit or feces of the animal can lead to a human infection too. Humans with tapeworm report a vastly increased appetite accompanied by persistent weight loss. Treatment with deworming mediation is necessary for pets and humans. Small children are susceptible to tapeworm infestations and should be carefully monitored. Pets should be dewormed regularly.
Tularemia is commonly known as rabbit fever. The disease is associated with rabbits and rodents. It is typically associated with wild rabbits and rodents. Domesticated pets may, however, come into contact with such animals. Ticks on the rabbits and rodents may be transferred to the skin of a cat or dog.
Humans can acquire tularemia in one of two ways. The first is through a scratch. This results in a glandular illness with swollen lymph nodes. The second is through inhalation. The result is a more acute form of the disease which affects the whole body. The symptoms of tularemia in humans include fever and inflammation. There are isolated cases in which the brain, heart, and lungs are attacked. Cats and dogs who go outside the yard should be routinely inspected for ticks. Undertake tick removal carefully wearing gloves. Make sure that pets are being protected from ticks and fleas using reputable products.
This viral disease is rare but deadly. The animals that transmit the virus are rodents. There is a sharp increase in rodents encroaching on human habitats as the cold months of winter loom. Rats and mice seek to make their homes indoors. These rodents pass the virus on through their urine, saliva, and feces.
Coming into physical contact with these excretions can transmit the virus. It can also be transmitted through the air. While sweeping up rodent feces, the virus can be aerosolized and cause an infection when breathed in. Hantavirus causes a weakening in the structure of the blood vessel walls. This can lead to internal bleeding and hemorrhaging. Unfortunately, hantavirus isn’t exclusive to wild rodents. There have been cases where pet rodent owners contracted the disease. Take precautions such as wearing gloves and a mask when cleaning rodent cages. Take active measures to prevent rodents from moving into the home.
This is a disease carried by rabbits. It’s seldom evident that a rabbit is infected as they tend to show no symptoms. Those that do will have enlarged lymph nodes and eye infections. Birds can also carry pasteurellosis and so can cats and dogs. A cat bite can pass the bacteria onto an unsuspecting pet owner.
The disease usually manifests as a slight infection at the site of a bite or scratch. The skin and soft tissue show signs of damage and inflammation. The eye is particularly vulnerable to pasteurellosis which can cause severe infections. A bite that starts swelling right away is an indication that pasteurellosis may be present. The bacteria can be easily eradicated by the administration of antibiotics. If a pet owner is bitten, they should clean the wound immediately with disinfectant. Once the skin is broken by the bite, a doctor would administer a tetanus shot and test for rabies.
8. Hepatitis E
Hepatitis is a disease that attacks the patient’s liver. There are several different strains of hepatitis. Few are transmitted to humans by animals. However, Hepatitis E is an exception. Most people who contract Hepatitis E do so by drinking contaminated water. However, they can also contract from a pet pig. While more study into the transmission is needed, what’s clear is that very close contact with a pet pig is needed to transmit Hepatitis E. Allowing a pet pig too much access to your personal space isn’t a good idea.
A human might suffer mild symptoms after contracting Hepatitis E. These include some jaundice, liver enlargement, and appetite and digestion issues. However, Hepatitis E can develop into fulminant hepatitis. This results in liver failure and death. Pet pigs should not be allowed to share a bed with their owners or spend too much time on the couch. Immunosuppressed persons are more vulnerable to getting hepatitis.
This disease bears many similarities to smallpox which was declared eradicated more than 30 years ago. Initially discovered in monkeys, the disease derived its name from there. However, there have been reported cases of monkeypox outbreaks in humans. In 2003, an outbreak in the United States brought the disease to the attention of millions of people. The commonality among all the pet owners who got sick was their ownership of prairie dogs. As it turns out, the prairie dogs had been kept close to some pouched rats imported from West Africa.
The infected prairie dogs transmitted the monkeypox by biting their human owners. The infected people suffered from chills, fevers, and muscle aches. They developed a rash that looked much like smallpox. No treatment specific to monkeypox is available. Smallpox vaccines and antiviral drugs are used to treat the condition. The appearance of the distinctive rash should set off alarm bells.
6. Campylobacter jejuni
This bacterial disease is caused by the Campylobacter jejuni bacterium which is found in the intestines of many animals. It is possible for the bacteria to be transmitted during the handling of any animal fecal matter. Cat and dog feces can contain the bacteria.
Infection by the bacteria leads to the symptoms of food poisoning. Diarrhea, cramping, nausea, and vomiting are symptoms of Campylobacter jejuni. Treatment of the symptoms will put a stop to it. For some patients, antibiotics might be needed. The elderly, the very young, and the immune-suppressed are more likely to need medical intervention. Cleaning up areas where animal fecal matter is present should be done on a regular basis. Thereafter, the pet owner should dispose of the waste and wash their hands with disinfectant soap. Pet store workers should be extra careful as there is a raised likelihood of contact with the bacteria.
5. Brucella canis
This bacterium infects dogs and affects their reproductive systems. It is associated with infertility in both sexes. In females, the bacterial infection can result in endometriosis and spontaneous abortions. The bacteria are spread to humans via the vaginal secretions and urine of an infected dog. Once the bacteria enter the human body, the resulting infection will include symptoms such as fever and weight loss. [
There is also a possibility of swelling of the lymph nodes, spleen, and liver. Antibiotic treatment is necessary to get rid of the infection for both the dogs and their owners. After handling a pet dog, especially a female who has had stillborn puppies, the owner should wash their hands thoroughly. Infections in humans are relatively rare, but simple precautions should still be taken. Dog breeders and their employees should be extra vigilant as should those who work at kennels and dog boarding facilities.
4. Helicobacter pylori
The Helicobacter pylori s a spiral bacterium that can cause both animals and humans alike to suffer from stomach ulcers. The bacteria that cause this condition house themselves in an area of the digestive system known as the duodenum. The feces of an infected animal carry the bacteria. Accidental or inadvertent contact with the feces of an infected animal poses a potential threat to people. Upon contact with the hands, the bacteria can enter the body. Pet owners should pay special attention to washing their hands after cleaning up pet feces.
The animals most likely to be infected by this bacterium are cats, dogs, and ferrets. Both the pets and their owners will experience episodes of intermittent vomiting. Humans also show symptoms such as nausea, weight loss, and a diminished appetite. Pets and owners will need antibiotic treatment to get rid of the infection. Owners can also make use of antacids to ease the pain caused by their stomach ulcers.
This is a parasitic illness. The parasite lives in contaminated water. Upon drinking the water, the host is unwittingly infected by the parasite. Pets like dogs are susceptible to parasitic diseases like giardia as they drink water from stagnant puddles. Untreated, unfiltered water is far more likely to contain parasites. Dogs who have giardia will show symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, bloody stools, and live worms in their feces. Humans will also exhibit bloody stools, stomach aches, and coughing. Antiparasitic treatment is required for pets and their owners who get the parasite.
Pet owners should avoid drinking unclean water and should carry treated water with them when they take their dogs out. Dogs should be encouraged to drink water from their owners rather than from bodies of contaminated water. Immediate treatment for an infected dog will kill the parasite before it can be passed onto the owner.
Methicillin-resistant staph aureus is an infection that poses more of the threat to humans than it does to animals. Many animals can carry MRSA such as pigs, chinchillas, horses, and parrots. Dogs can also contract the infection. There are various strains of MRSA which pose different levels of threat to human life. Animals who have recurrent ear infections or wounds that won’t heal are likely candidates for MRSA infection. Owners should be on the lookout for fever, wound discharge, skin swelling, and skin lesions.
Contact with infected areas on their pets can cause owners to get MRSA. In humans, MRSA presents as a series of small reddish bumps on the skin. Left untreated, deep skin abscesses may form. As the name implies, MRSA is treatment resistant, and a combination of antibiotics is needed to eradicate it. Scrupulous hygiene practices when it comes to caring for pets with infections and wounds can prevent MRSA transmission.
1. Sarcoptic mange
Mange is the result of an infestation of mites in the skin of an animal. The result is itchy, sensitive, and irritated skin. The fur might fall out of the affected area leaving behind bald patches. Sores and scabs form on the skin. Animals with mange will scratch their skin persistently, to the point where bleeding occurs. The skin is sensitive and painful.
The presence of the mites is a constant irritation to the animal. Antiparasitic medications, ointments, and shampoos are used to get rid of mange. Caged animals should have their cages treated with powder to kill the mites. When the mites are passed onto a human, the result is scabies. This is a condition characterized by a rash of small sores that are itchy and painful. Topical ointments are the recommended treatment. Regular inspection of pets’ fur for mites allows owners to deal with an infestation in the early stages.