Leonard is a former teacher and principal who has also been a writer for the past two decades. Writing and animals are his true loves.
Can You Get Sick From a Pet?
There can be little doubt that people love their pets. This can be seen every single day as owners and their pets are observed playing and being affectionate with one another. It can also be measured by the sheer amount of money that people spend on their pets. The pet industry is a huge market in the United States and Worldwide. Indeed, in America alone, statistics from the American Pet Product Association (APPA) puts total pet expenditures at 66.75 billion dollars in 2016 with that number expected to explode to 69.36 in 2017!
However, while pets may be very important parts of our lives, did you know that your pet can also make you sick? This is most likely something which most pet owners rarely consider. How could their beloved companion actually harm their health? In reality, it depends on the pet and the precautions an owner chooses to take. Nevertheless, listed below are seven ways your pet can make you sick.
1. Allergies and Asthma
While there are a plethora of different types of pets to have, most people still own a dog or cat. These popular companions are actually much harder to take care of than other pet types. Also, they are unfortunately the cause of allergic reactions and worsening asthma conditions for many pet owners. Not only does their fur contain a number of allergens, but their dander can severely worsen allergic reactions and actually set off an asthma attack. If this is not bad enough, urine and saliva can literally take an owner's breath away. Contributing to allergies and asthma is one surefire way your pet can make you sick.
2. Stomach Problems
If you are a pet lover, the odds are that you enjoy getting close and cuddly with your little buddy. This can take the form of cute nose nuzzling to full-out slobbery kisses. However, these are exactly the type of actions which can lead to stomach problems and make you sick.
- According to the Florida Department of Health, each year more than 200,000 Americans catch the stomach flu after ingesting Campylobacter, which is a common bacterium found on the back ends of cats and dogs.
- As if that was not bad enough, your pet can also contract Giardia from drinking tainted water and then pass it along to you. This will, in turn, lead to severe cramping and diarrhea.
- Lastly, all types of pets, particularly reptiles and amphibians, can pass along salmonella, which can lead to death if not treated properly and quickly. Creating stomach problems is definitely a way your pet can make you sick!
3. Skin Conditions
Anyone who has battled a skin condition can tell you that it is serious business. Not only can it be itchy and irritating, it can create searing pain and cause embarrassment and loss of much-needed self-confidence.
Unfortunately, pets are known to pass on certain skin conditions to their human owners. Two of the most common skin conditions which can be transferred are ringworm and scabies. Ringworm is a fungus and scabies is a rash caused by mites. Pets can even pass on a very dangerous staph infection. All of these skin conditions can be transmitted when a human comes into contact with germs, bacteria, or viruses which their beloved pet is carrying. Transmission can occur by such a simple and innocent activity as petting your dog or cat! Passing on serious skin conditions is a very real way your pet can make you sick.
While parasites are often associated with skin conditions, they are not the same thing. Your pet, whether it be a dog, cat, rat, or gerbil, can be a breeding ground for gruesome parasites.
- Ticks and fleas are some of the more common parasites which can become a problem for pets and owners alike. Both of these parasites will attach themselves to the pet and possibly seek out a human host as well. Also, they are more than just an annoyance.
- Certain types of ticks can lead to very serious conditions such as Lyme Disease. Also, did you know fleas can carry the Bubonic plague?
- Even more gruesome than this is hookworm. This is transmitted to people through eggs and larvae found in dirt contaminated by feces. These parasitic larvae will enter your skin and travel through the bloodstream and into the lungs. This leads to serious lung and small intestine issues. This can be passed on by such a simple activity as Fido walking through contaminated soil and bringing it home on his paws.
There can be little doubt that passing on parasites is another way your pet can make you sick.
5. Cat Scratch Disease
Anyone who has ever owned a cat knows that getting the occasional scratch or two is all part of the journey. Your cute little kitty will sometimes scratch you by accident or instinct, or she may just be in a foul mood. No harm done. However, there are instances when a lot of harm can be done from this scratch.
This can happen when a cat or kitten who is carrying a bacterium called Bartonella henselae scratches or bites a person hard enough to break the skin. This will allow the bacterium to pass the protective layer of the skin and enter the bloodstream, thus leading to an infection. The individual will often develop swollen lymph nodes and lesions, as well as come down with a fever, headache, and pure exhaustion. Since about 40% of cats carry this bacterium at some point in their lives, it is a very real danger and certainly a way your pet can make you sick.
6. Parrot Fever
Birds have become a very popular pet. They are known as a relatively easy pets to take care of and are constantly bathing, cleaning, and preening themselves. Considering this, it may come as quite a surprise to bird lovers that they are known to spread an infection which is caused by the bacterium Chlamydia psittaci. This bacterial illness can result from contact with infected bird feces or even the dust which builds up in cages. For those working in pet stores, zoos, or poultry farms, it can be a real occupational hazard. For pet owners, it can be a source of potential sickness as well. The bacterium has the potential to infect canaries, parakeets, and parrots. It can lead to high fever, respiratory issues, and muscle aches. Parrot fever is certainly another way that your pet can make you sick.
7. Pet Bites and Rabies
The conditions which have been outlined up until this point are quite serious and disturbing. However, they do not tend to be fatal in the vast majority of cases. There are conditions that if passed onto human pet owners can be life-threatening and quite fatal for human pet owners. One such infection is rabies. While there may be vaccinations which prevent this in our pets for the most parts, in some areas of the world this is not the case. If our pet comes into contact with a wild animal with rabies, it can then pass along the virus to humans. The death rate of humans who contract rabies is exceptionally high.
Two further conditions which can arise from bites or another route of innoculation from our beloved pet is MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) and Tetanus. With MRSA, the owner can develop skin and lung conditions. If MRSA spreads to the bloodstream or lungs, it can be fatal. Tetanus, on the other hand, has the ability to cause paralysis in humans. Nasty stuff. All the above are quite scary and unfortunate ways that your pet can make you sick.
The above is certainly not intended to scare people away from the wonderful world of pet ownership. It is, instead, designed to warn people to take proper precautions with themselves and their pets. Proper hygiene such as washing your hands after handling your pet and obviously not exchanging body fluids through licking or "kisses," are two simple precautions to take in order not to end up sick. Also, a thorough check of your pet after they have been outside to make sure they have not picked up any "passengers" is always in order, as is cleaning their paws before they come in the house. Simple preventative and proactive measures will go a long way in ensuring your pet does not make you sick. It should also be mentioned that pets have the great ability to improve your health as well. Everything is all about balance.
Share Your Experience!
Should You Let Your Dog Lick Your Face?
1. Pet Industry Market Size and Ownership Statistics. American Pet Product Association (APPA)
2. Pet Allergies. American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology.
3. Is your pet making you sick? Catherine Guthrie. Oprah Magazine.
4. 5 Skin conditions dogs can pass onto humans. Dog Guide
5. Hookworm Infections. Healthline.
6. Cat-Scratch Disease. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
7. Parrot Fever. Medscape
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on September 24, 2017:
It is good to be aware of this and take precautions but I (should say we) love our pets. They add so much to the quality of our lives. It would be lonely without them and we would miss many smiles each day that they stimulate with their cute actions.
Louise Powles from Norfolk, England on September 24, 2017:
Well, it was certainly interesting reading your article. I had no idea you could catch any of these illnesses and symptoms from your pets. I've got a dog, but thankfully he's not made me ill yet.
5 Effects Pet Hair Can Have On Human Health & Ways to Tackle Them
We adopt pets to bring joy and happiness into our lives, they become loyal companions and irreplaceable family members to us and our children. Unless we are allergic to pet hairs, we do not consider the effects pet’s hair can have on our health.
Cats and dogs shed large amounts of hair and fur which ends up all over your house and is almost impossible to entirely remove. This hair could be affecting your health in unexpected ways, what’s worse is that you might not even know that pet hair is actively affecting your health.
Here are some of the ways that these furs could be affecting you and your family’s life and some simple ways to minimize the risks of the hairs from your pets.
Germs are everywhere but animals are particularly good at picking up nasty forms of bacteria, especially if they are frequently outdoors.
Exceptionally bad bacteria which you can catch from animal fur are Salmonella and E. coli, alongside giving you a bad case of diarrhea, they can make you end up in the hospital and can potentially be life-threatening.
Thankfully, viruses are very infrequently spread between animals and humans, it’s just the bacteria you need to worry about.
To keep your pet free from bacteria and minimize your chances of getting sick from your pet, you should ensure they are frequently washed and kept healthy with regular checkups from the vet.
Wash your hands after playing with your furry friends and make sure your kids do the same.
2. Parasitic Infections
“Two of the most common parasitic diseases in the U.S. can be transmitted by our pets.”Peter Hotez, President, Sabin Vaccine Institute, Walter G. Ross Professor, George Washington University
There are lots of parasites that love to make their home in pet pelt if your dog or cat is often outside you need to beware. Parasites from pets can easily spread to you and other people in your home if you are not careful.
Hookworms, tapeworms, and even scabies all can be present in animal fur.
One of the worst types of parasites to have on a dog or cat is fleas, from your pet’s hair they will quickly spread throughout your house causing you misery, they are really hard to get rid of too.
The best way to ensure your pet is free of parasites is to ensure you take them to the vet regularly for flea and deworming treatments, medicated shampoos when washing your pet are also a great way to ensure your pet is healthy.
With the summertime approaches, teach yourself how to remove ticks and brush your pet regularly.
Keeping your pet healthy is the easiest way to ensure that the hair it sheds in your house doesn’t pose a parasitic risk to your health.
If you aren’t already aware of the parasitic risk from your pet, read up on the risks to ensure you are taking proper precautions to protect yourself, your pet, and your family.
Many suffer from pet hair allergies and some of the sufferers don’t even know it.
There are many reasons why someone can be allergic to pet hair but for pet owners, this can be difficult especially if you develop an allergy overnight.
Meaning, you might have been ok with your pet’s hair, but now something in your immune system snapped and now, all of a sudden, you developed an allergy.
Those who suffer from pet hair allergies may experience coughing and wheezing, red and irritated eyes, runny nose, sinus problems, and sneezing. If you have a light form of allergy it is possible to still own a pet while you are taking necessary medication. Consult your GP if you believe you are allergic to pet hair.
For some people, allergies can suddenly develop, just simply appearing.
One of the best ways to avoid having an allergic reaction to pet hair is to simply limit your exposure to any hair by keeping your house clean free of hair.
Limiting your exposure to hair can help you to avoid allergies developing too, you can do this by keeping pets to certain rooms, regularly vacuuming and using an air filter.
Those with asthma can be triggered by animal hairs and these triggers can develop for asthma sufferers at any time.
The allergens within the animal hair come from the dead skin cell proteins. They come in the form of tiny skin flakes on the hair, these small flakes can become airborne in the form of dust. While this is the same as an allergic reaction, for those with asthma the reaction can be particularly strong.
Owning a pet with asthma is not advised and if anyone is visiting your house who has asthma, make sure to deeply clean your house of hair and fur before they come, asthma attacks are potentially life-threatening for many sufferers. Those with very strong asthmatic reactions to animals must always stay away from hair or fur.
5. Stronger Immune System
Pet hair isn’t all bad news, dogs, and cats exposing your body to new parasites and bacteria have the consequence of strengthening your body’s immune systems. It’s been shown that those with dogs and cats are less likely to get sick and if they do get sick they recover faster.
While having pet hair around your home can potentially make you sick, it makes your body better able to fight off these potential illnesses. Having a pet will make your body healthier and not just physically, those who have pets are generally happier and less prone to depression.
Having a pet is great for your health, both physically and mentally just make sure you take care of your furry friend and clean up their hair!
Is Your Pet Making You Sick?
While you won't catch a cold or a cough from dogs (or give them one, for that matter), you may be in for other troubles. Just keep in mind that the health benefits of cohabiting with a canine far outweigh the potential contamination. Simply petting a dog lowers your blood pressure and heart rate. And in one study of heart attack survivors, dog owners were 8.6 times more likely to be alive a year later than people without dogs. But here's the question: When Spot comes to plant a slobbery kiss on your cheek, should you dodge?
Absolutely, says Lisa Conti, a veterinarian and director of the division of environmental health at the Florida Department of Health. "Dogs have bacteria around their mouths you don't want on your face." Every year, more than 200,000 Americans get stomach flu after ingesting a common bacterium found on the tail ends of dogs—and cats—called campylobacter. Another easily transmitted bacterium is salmonella, which causes diarrhea and fever in humans. The bugs get around thanks to the typical canine meet-and-greet sniffing, and an innocent kiss can pass it to you. "Dogs lick themselves all over, so these germs can be on the dog's nose when it's nuzzling you," says Peter Rabinowitz, MD, associate professor of medicine at Yale School of Medicine and an expert in pet-related infection.
Now that you're ducking dog kisses, you should probably plan to wash up after heavy petting. Soap and water are your best protection against ringworm, one of the most common infections dogs pass to people. A fungus like jock itch and athlete's foot, ringworm spores can lurk on a dog's coat or muzzle. Every year, ringworm makes the leap from pets to people an estimated 2 million times. Signs of ringworm include circular, scaly red patches on the skin. In dogs, the fungus can surface as hair loss or dry, flaky skin. "I'm not saying don't pet your dog," Rabinowitz says, "but I am saying to wash your hands afterward."
Less icky but no less irksome is poison ivy. Although the plant's tenacious oil won't bother Spot in the slightest, it can spread from his fur to your skin faster than you can say "no jump." So if you think your pooch came into contact with the plant after a frolic through fields and forests (maybe even the backyard), get out your gloves and give him a bath. "If it's low-growing ivy, you may be able to get by with just washing the dog's feet and legs," Conti says.
7 Household Items That Can Make Your Dog Sick
As the owner of a dog or puppy, keeping your furry friend healthy is likely one of your top priorities. But some owners don’t understand the hidden pet health hazards in their own homes. The following are some of the most common items that could make your dog sick if consumed.
- Grapes: While you love munching these fruits on a summer day, refrain from sharing with your dog. Raisins and grapes can cause kidney failure if your dog eats them.
- Chocolate: Perhaps the most well known food hazard for pups, chocolate contains caffeine and theobromine, which are both toxic for your pooch. If they do consume chocolate by accident, call the veterinarian right away.
- Raw Meat: Some owners justify giving their dog’s raw meat due to the species’ wild ancestry. However, today’s domesticated pets do not have the same tolerance for raw meat! They are still able to contract Salmonella poisoning like humans.
- Lawn Chemicals: If you choose to treat your lawn with synthetic fertilizer, avoid letting your dog on the grass until the lawn company says you’re in the clear. This will make your animal sick if ingested, and it is not good for their paws either.
- Medications: Be sure to always keep your medications out of reach of your dog. Eating pills can be hazardous, damaging your pet’s liver.
- Small Toys: Just as you would keep small toys and objects off the floor when you have a small child, you should try to do the same for your dog. If they pick up one of these objects, they can choke or swallow them. Although some breeds are more likely to incur a foreign body ingestion than others, caution should be used with all dogs.
- Macadamia Nuts: Another little-known hazard, these crunchy snacks are actually poisonous for your dog. So, if you are eating them or using them for backing, keep them out of reach of your four-legged friend.
Healthcare for pets is all about prevention. Pet owners in the United States spend about $13.59 billion on vet care annually, much of which could be avoided had the owners been more careful. For more specifics on how to prevent your dog or puppy from consuming hazardous foods and products, talk to your vet. And of course, get your pet to an animal care hospital or vet office if they are having a medical emergency.
Pets infected with bacteria can transmit these organisms to their owners. Increasing evidence indicates that animals can even spread antibiotic-resistant bacteria, such as MRSA to people. Pets can also spread Lyme disease, which is transmitted by ticks. Three bacterial diseases that are often transmitted to humans by their pets are cat-scratch disease, salmonellosis, and campylobacteriosis.
Cat-scratch disease is probably the most common disease associated with cats. As cats often love to scratch things and people, infected cats can transmit Bartonella henselae bacteria by scratching or biting hard enough to penetrate the skin. Cat-scratch disease causes swelling and redness in the infected area and may result in swollen lymph nodes. Cats contract the bacteria through flea bites or infected flea dirt. To prevent the spread of this disease, cat owners should not allow cats to lick open wounds and quickly wash cat bites or scratches with soap and water. Owners should control fleas on pets, keep their cat's nails trimmed, and ensure pets receive routine veterinary care.
Salmonellosis is an illness caused by Salmonella bacteria. It can be contracted by consuming food or water that is contaminated with Salmonella. Symptoms of salmonellosis infection include nausea, vomiting, fever, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. Salmonellosis is often spread by contact with reptile pets including lizards, snakes, turtles. Salmonella is also transmitted to people by other pets (cats, dogs, birds) through the handling of pet feces or raw foods. To prevent the spread of salmonellosis, pet owners should wash their hands properly after cleaning litter boxes or handling pet feces. Infants and those with suppressed immune systems should avoid contact with reptiles. Pet owners should also avoid feeding pets raw food.
Campylobacteriosis is an illness caused by Campylobacter bacteria. Campylobacter is a foodborne pathogen that is often spread through contaminated food or water. It is also spread through contact with pet stool. Pets infected with Campylobacter may not exhibit symptoms, but these bacteria can cause nausea, vomiting, fever, abdominal pain, and diarrhea in people. To prevent the spread of campylobacteriosis, pet owners should wash their hands properly after handling pet feces and avoid feeding pets raw food.