Can Your Pet Make You Sick?

Home & Family, Pets
on November 23, 2011

Your pets can make you sick when they have contracted a zoonotic disease, an animal disease that can be passed to humans. There are several diseases cats, dogs and other animals can transmit to humans, but how likely are humans to get sick? Here is a look at five diseases that you can get from pets.

Cat scratch fever. Cat scratch fever is more than a Ted Nugent song. It is a bacterial disease transmitted from cats to humans through bites and scratches. Each year in the United States, according to, about 22,000 cases of cat scratch fever are diagnosed, usually in children. Kids are more likely to become infected because they play more with kittens and cats, receiving scratches and nips. About two weeks after a bite, lymph nodes may become swollen. Other symptoms include fever, loss of appetite and tiredness. Many cases of cat scratch fever will not need treatment. Some may require antibiotics.

Giardiasis. Giardiasis is a common gastrointestinal infection occurring in dogs and cats. When humans are infected, it usually is from contact with a dog. Pets can pick up the infection by ingesting giardia in its cyst form, generally in food or water. Humans may become infected by ingesting cysts that may be in the dog’s fur. Keeping hands away from your face when petting or playing with pets can help reduce the risk of giardiasis. Washing hands after handling your pet can reduce the risk of infection as well. You and your pet, when infected, may suffer diarrhea and stomach upset. Treatment for both human and pets is medication. Bathing the animal may help prevent re-infection.

Hookworms. Pet owners are more likely to become infected with hookworms when there is a puppy or kitten in the home. Humans can contact hookworms through the skin, especially when walking barefoot in a dirt area where an infected animal has been. Hookworms are the second most common internal parasite for animals, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. When a hookworm larvae infects a human, a skin disease called larva migrans or creeping eruption can occur as the larvae travel throughout the body.

Roundworms. Roundworms, also known as nematodes, are the most common internal parasite that infects dogs and cats. A pet with roundworms may suffer infections in the lungs and intestines. If the pet’s infection is left untreated, roundworms can lead to pneumonia and even death. Humans can get roundworms from their pets when the eggs or larvae are unintentionally ingested. Because there is more than one type of roundworm, medications to treat the infection vary. Pet owners can reduce the risk of roundworms by practicing good hygiene, washing hands after playing with or handling any animal or after contact with animal waste.

Tularemia. Tularemia is a bacterial disease. Humans can contract it from deer fly and tick bites, as well as through skin contact with infected cats. Hand washing after handling an infected cat can help reduce the risk of tularemia in humans. Its symptoms include headache, muscle pain and chills. It can be treated with antibiotics.

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