In the U.S. there are more pets than people. And all these pets have the potential to spread disease. Luckily, the risk of you getting sick from your pet is small.
Zoonotic diseases are pet diseases that are transmittable to humans, aka zoonoses. Those with compromised immune systems need to be especially careful of not contracting pet carrying humanly contagious diseases. Those who fall in this cautious class are:
- pregnant women
- cancer treatment patients
- organ transplant recipients
- have an autoimmune disease
If this is your case, it is highly advisable that you avoid contact with reptiles (turtles, lizards, and snakes), baby chicks and ducklings.
Following are the more common pet to human contagious diseases, along with interactions that support their spread and some practical ways to prevent disease spreading.
Worms can infect dogs, cats, as well as some other pets. These same worms can also infect you. Thus, it is advised you begin a deworming program on your dogs and cats as young as two weeks.
Common mode of worm transmission is animal feces. Worm eggs or larvea can remain on cleaned pet defecation sites, which in turn find their way into you intestines by means of food, hands or feet. Ways to prevent this infectious disease’s method of transport is:
- avoid walking barefoot
- wash all produce thoroughly
- don’t put your hands in your mouth
- wash your hands after pet related activities
- clean pet defecation sites promptly and thoroughly
Hookworms can penetrate your skin if you walk barefoot on infected soil. Roundworms are a concern because their larvea has the potential to migrated beyond the intestines, damaging tissues and organs.
Children are especially at risk by playing in outside infected areas or on inside floors where feces has been tracked in.
Your cat can be a carrier of a parasite causing toxoplasmosis. Contact with their feces is an infection route, as well as eating raw or undercooked meat.
You likely wouldn’t know that your cat is infected, since most don’t show signs. And relatively few people actually feel sick from this contagious parasite. Those that do have flu-like symptoms, i.e. swollen glands and muscle aches.
Take special precautions with cats during pregnancy because toxoplasmosis can cause:
Various ways pregnant women and those with suppressed immune systems may avoid toxoplasma exposure include:
- avoid changing a cat’s litter box
- cover children’s sandboxes when not in use
- seal all cat waste in plastic bag to prevent inhaling
- wear disposable gloves when changing cat box and then wash hands thoroughly
- change cat’s litter box daily ~ takes 24 hours for toxoplasma parasite to become infectious
Antimicrobial drugs are available to treat toxoplasmosis.
Cat scratch fever is caused by a bacteria, believed to be transmitted by fleas. You may not realize your cat has this disease, because many do not show signs. As a cat owner, develop a flea control system, keep your cat’s claws trimmed and avoid scratches or bites to prevent your body from being invade by this bacteria.
Ringworm is not a worm, but a fungus. This skin disease can be transmitted by touching the skin or fur of an infected pet, typically cats. Ringworm can infect other pets as well, for instance:
- guinea pigs
Signs of ringworm disease can be hairless or fur-less patches, and some pets symptoms are inconspicuous.
Since ringworm fungi grows in dirt and contaminated bedding, keep your pet’s area clean as a preventative for this itchy skin infection. Topical and oral medications are available to treat ringworm in people and pets.
Rabies is a deadly viral disease and transmitted via saliva. Vaccines are available for:
- some farm animals
If you are a pet owner, keep their vaccinations up to date.
Rabies is alive and well in the wild, therefore you and your pet should avoid contact with:
If you suspect pet exposure, seek veterinarian treatment ASAP.
Many products are available to help control fleas and ticks on pets and in their environment.
Lymphocytic choriomeningitis (LCM) is a contagious viral disease from inhaling infectious airborne particles of virus contaminated rodent urine, feces, saliva or ingesting food contaminated with the virus. Rodent as in pet:
Rat bite fever is a bacterial illness that can be transmitted via:
- rodent feces contaminated food or water
Both of these rodent borne diseases cause you similar to flu symptoms initially, such as:
Be sure to inform your doctor about rodent contact should you go to them for any flu like symptoms.
As a rodent pet owner, avoid exposure to their droppings, and disinfect their habitats routinely to stave off your pet rodent’s contagious contaminates.
Salmonella is contagious bacteria that can be transmitted through pet feces, particularly:
- baby chicks
Most reptiles carry some Salmonella in their intestinal tract. Salmonella may be found on the reptile’s skin, its cage or any other surface they’ve touched. Considering salmonella is a normal reptile bacteria, allowing them to freely roam is a recipe for spreading salmonella all around your house.
Mycobacterium is the main contagious germ connected with your fish and their aquarium world. A common route for a mycobacteria infection is open skin on your hands or feet, i.e. cuts, scrapes.
To prevent the contagious results of this fish loving bacteria, wear rubber gloves during the fish tank cleaning task. Obviously, don’t put your hand in the tank nor let your cat drink from it. Use a fish net and keep the lid on.
Psittacosis is a common bird disease caused by a bacteria, aka parrot fever. Bacteria from infected birds are found in their droppings and nasal discharges, and you can get infected by inhaling these dried droppings and secretions.
Pay a visit to your health care provider if you’ve been exposed to a psittacosis ill bird and have these symptoms:
Some practical ways to prevent falling ill with psittacosis are:
- wash your hands after bird handling events
- wear a dust mask and gloves during bird cage cleaning
- not allowing your bird to fly about the house, especially where you eat and prepare food
The list of zoonotic diseases is growing with global expansion. For those insisting on having an exotic pet, acquire it only from a reputable source who has proven testing for their common diseases.
Think about your health and the time required to prevent contagious infectious diseases before you bring a pet into your home.