More Health:

June 03, 2019

Diseases you can catch from a household pet

What you really need to know about caring for dogs, cats, birds and reptiles – safely

Prevention Pets
Girl Dog 06032019 Image by Nicole Miranda/ from Pixabay


No one can deny the joy a pet brings to you and your family. Studies show that caring for and loving pets have shown “increase fitness, lower stress and bring happiness to their owners."

As a pet parent, you always want to keep all the members of your family, both human and animal, happy and healthy, so it is important that you are aware of zoogenic diseases that can be passed between pets and their humans.

If you are bitten or scratched by a pet or touch with your bare hands your pet’s waste, saliva or dander, you risk exposure to a variety of fungal, bacterial and viral infections. Pregnant women, babies and young kids, and anyone with a weakened immune system are the family members most at risk.

MORE HEALTH: Where to volunteer in Philadelphia in June

Here are some of the most common diseases you can catch from a household pet. (Sources included: Kids Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Harvard Health and The Humane Society of the United States):

• Campylobacter infection is a gastrointestinal illness with fever that can be contracted from dogs, cats, hamsters and birds.

• Cat scratch disease can cause flu-like symptoms including swollen lymph nodes and fever.

• Rabies is a serious neurological illness spread through the bite of an infected dog, cat or wild animal. Exposure can even happen if the saliva of an infected animal gets into an open wound.

• Rocky Mountain spotted fever is typically transmitted through ticks on your pets, and usually includes a rash. It can be fatal if not diagnosed and treated correctly.

• Ringworm – Kids Health experts say that you can spot this skin fungi infection by “a dry, scaly round area with a raised red bumpy border and a clear center."

• Toxoplasmosis can be serious in newborns and increase a pregnant woman’s risk for a miscarriage or premature birth. Contact with cat feces is the most common way this infection is spread.

Cryptococcosis (with yeast-like fungus, resulting in tumors in the lungs and spreading to the brain) and psittacosis (an infection of the lungs) are most often contracted from birds.

• Salmonellosis, another gastrointestinal illness, can be contracted from reptiles and amphibians.

• Lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus is a zoogenic disease that causes flu-like symptoms or in more serious cases meningitis and encephalitis.


To keep everyone safe and healthy, practice these preventive measures.

First, before adopting or buying a new pet, make sure the animal is healthy and its vaccinations are all up-to-date.

Second, after bringing your new family member home, schedule a physical evaluation from a trusted veterinarian as soon as possible. It is important to maintain regular checkups and vaccination updates throughout your pet’s life.

Third, always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after touching a pet and handling their food and water bowls, blankets, toys and cages. When cleaning a bird cage, it is recommended that you wear a mask over your nose and mouth for extra protection. And when cleaning up waste, always wear gloves.

Kids should not be allowed to help care for a pet (feeding or cleaning out cages or litter boxes) until they have been taught how to do so safely. Never let your children play in the areas of your yard your dog uses for a bathroom and teach them to not kiss your pets directly on the mouth or share food with them.

If there are infants and young children in your home, you should also postpone buying or adopting any reptiles or amphibians until they are much older.

Follow us

Health Videos