Achoo! Diseases that Spread from Pet to Humans


Just as hand washing is a good preventative against catching human to human illnesses; it is good for preventing pet to human transmission as well.  A routine of hand washing, vaccinating, and keeping your pet healthy will go a long way to ensuring nothing passes between you and your pet except love.  While, thankfully, most diseases do not cross the animal-human barrier, and any that do are treatable, there are some to be on the lookout for to protect yourself and your family.


Ringworm is the most common ailment passed from pet to human.  While the name implies a parasite, ringworm is actually a fungal infection, similar to athlete’s foot.  It is estimated that there is upwards of two million cases of ringworm transmitted from pet to human each year.

Ringworm manifests as a red, scaly patch and progresses to a circular patch on the skin, which gives ringworm its name.  Ringworm can affect the skin, hair, and nails also.  Ringworm is easily treated with a topical antifungal.  For affected nails or skin, your doctor may prescribe antifungal medication to be taken orally.  Washing your hands after touching your pet is one preventative measure that is very easy to do.


Although rabies in pets is rare due to aggressive vaccination practices, pets can become infected by coming into contact with a wild animal carrying the disease.  If it is deemed possible that a pet has been bitten or scratched by a wild animal, getting a booster rabies shot, even if your pet has been vaccinated, is advisable.  An unvaccinated pet will have to be quarantined at best, and euthanized should signs of the disease appear.  Although treatable in humans, rabies is fatal for animals, pets included, once the symptoms of the disease begin to manifest.  Humans who have possibly been exposed should seek immediate medical treatment, since rabies, if left untreated is nearly always fatal in humans.


Many pets, including reptiles, baby chicks, and iguanas, carry salmonella bacteria.  One form of salmonella is food poisoning, which is caused by infected feces coming in contact with food as it is growing.  Food must be washed and/or cooked properly to prevent food poisoning.

Another way of contracting salmonella is through the feces of an infected pet, such as an iguana.  Hand washing after handling a turtle, iguana, or other pet that can transmit the bacteria is as must for preventing salmonella.  Symptoms of the disease in humans are vomiting, abdominal pain, and fever.  Most people will recover without medical treatment.

Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is transmitted through the bite of an infected tick.  Indoor/outdoor pets can bring ticks into the house from outside where pet parents can be bitten and infected.  Lyme disease often causes a bulls-eye rash to appear in the area of the bite, but some patients report no rash at all.  Lyme disease can cause serious health problems if left untreated.  Symptoms include irregular heartbeat, facial paralysis, and joint problems.

Prevention is the best medicine.  Keep your pet’s vaccinations up to date, wash your hands after handling your pet, and consult your doctor with any questions you might have related to pet-borne illnesses.

How do you keep you and your pets healthy?

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