Pet Diseases You Can Catch
What Is Zoonotic Disease?
Diseases or parasites that can be transmitted from animals (including dogs) to humans are called zoonotic diseases. The transmission of parasites from dogs to humans is rare, but does occur.
What Types of Diseases Can Humans Catch?
- Rabies – This is a well-known viral disease that can be transmitted by a rabid dog bite. Rabies vaccinations are required for dogs by law in most states.
- Heartworm, Hookworms and Roundworms – Heartworm is unlikely to be transmitted, and even less likely to cause disease in humans. Hookworms and roundworms can be transmitted to humans through ingestion of dog feces, or anything contaminated with dog feces (as well as the feces of some wild animals, including raccoons).
Infection from gastrointestinal tract parasites occurs when the eggs or larvae, which are excreted in feces, contaminate the environment (soil, sand, etc.). Infection can occur from larvae penetrating skin upon contact, or by ingesting eggs (from soil or other contaminated particles). Eggs can survive for years, and some are "sticky," which aids in their distribution on footwear, toys, etc. Infection can result in itchy, rash-like reactions (most of which heal on their own), or in rare cases, skin lesions, diarrhea, nausea and fever, or loss of vision.
Who's Most at Risk?
People at risk of contracting zoonotic diseases are primarily those with undeveloped or weakened immune systems. At-risk people include very young children, pregnant women, adults with certain medical conditions, the elderly, and animal health care workers.
Infants and small children are often at risk because of their natural curiosity and propensity to put things in their mouths, including dirty fingers. Rooting in the dirt, picking up and ingesting grains of sand, and overly close physical contact with animals should be carefully monitored.
How Can I Avoid Infection?
Being aware of the proper handling of animals and their wastes, and understanding what contact and behavior should be avoided can virtually eliminate any risk of contracting zoonotic diseases.