Whether you’re the proud owner of a cuddly kitten, a loyal, fun-loving dog, or a cute hamster, chances are that you get many things from your pet — unconditional love, good company, and reduced stress,. And Unfortunately, scores of infectious organisms — from bacteria to fungi to viruses — can also be transmitted from your pet to you.
Here are seven contagious pet diseases you might inherit from your beloved pets:
1. Salmonella: While you usually think of this disease from undercooked meats, you can get it from animals around the house too. Salmonella is a type of bacteria that lives in the gastrointestinal tract. Animals might contract salmonellosis and still appear healthy on the outside. These animals will, however, pass the bacteria into their feces. In turn, they can contaminate other parts of their body, such as their fur. If you don’t wash your hands after touching an infected animal, the bacteria could easily pass to you. To lower your risk, wash your hands thoroughly, especially after coming into contact with animal feces.
2. Ringworm: Named deceivingly, ringworm actually stems from a fungal infection on the skin. You can get the infection from swimming rooms and locker rooms as well as your infected pets. To spot ringworm on yourself or your pets, look for the characteristic reddish ring that may have a darker edge than the center. Also, watch for itchy, red, or scaly patches on the skin or broken blisters that ooze. If the infection affects the scalp (or hair in animals), you might see bald patches or brittle hair in one area. Thankfully, ringworm usually responds well to topical treatments.
3. Cat Scratch Disease: According to the CDC, about 40 percent of cats carry the bacteria that cause this infection at some point in their lives. Humans can contract it through a playful bite, scratch, or lick of an open wound. Sometime after the cat’s scratch, you may see the wound puff up and turn red. In addition, you may also experience mild flu-like symptoms, but the disease can affect you more seriously too. To prevent infection, do not engage in play with your cat that may result in a scratch or bite. Take measures to get rid of any fleas on your cat, and wash any scratches that do occur with warm water and soap.
4. Lyme Disease: Next, you can contract Lyme disease from the ticks that live on your household pets. These ticks often get picked up during your pet’s outdoor exercise and may hide in the fur for a long time. If you do contract Lyme disease, you may experience little to no symptoms. However, you may find a bulls eye rash on your skin, fever, or muscle/joint pain. You’ll need medical treatment right away. To protect yourself, avoid taking your pets to thick, grassy areas, especially in the spring and summer. When coming indoors, check for ticks on yourself and your pet and remove them immediately. Kill them by wrapping in plastic.
5. Worms: You may not realize it, but you can indeed contract worms from your pet. Yet another reason to make sure that you keep up-to-date on all de-worming procedures as well as shots and flea control. These worms live inside the gastrointestinal tract as a parasite, and their larvae get passed into your pet’s feces. Many times, humans contract worms from their pets by walking outside barefoot. The worms may break through the skin undetected or get ingested through contamination of the hands. The CDC estimates human infections into the hundred millions globally, although infections in the U.S. have reduced drastically with improved living conditions.
6. Toxoplasmosis: This pet disease happens when people become infected by a microscopic parasite common in pets, especially cats. The disease can cause mild flu-like symptoms, but it may have larger complications if a woman gets infected while pregnant. With this disease, the best rule is prevention. Clean cat litter daily, using gloves if necessary, and avoid direct contact with animal feces. Also, be sure to wash hands thoroughly after gardening. If pregnant, consider having someone else clean up after the pets.
7. Rabies: When talking about contagious diseases from pets, you cannot leave out rabies. This virus infects the central nervous system of both animals and humans and is ultimately fatal. To prevent rabies, keep all pets up-to-date on the rabies vaccine and stay away from wild animals. For the most part, pets offer love, affection, and laughs. However, you should be aware of these contagious diseases that you can contract from your pets and learn how to prevent them. Thorough cleaning and adequate hygiene for both you and your pets go a long way in prevention.