Updated: Jun 11
Learn how pets, like dogs, cats, and other animals, can spread illnesses and the steps you can take to stop them.
Pet ownership is popular among much of the world's population. Our homes are full of animals we consider more than just pets — they're part of the family. And while these furry friends bring joy and fun into our lives, the bacteria, viruses, and parasites they carry can be dangerous to us as well. This blog post aims to educate pet owners about diseases humans can catch from their pets. It also suggests ways you can protect yourself from your devoted four-legged companions.
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Let’s look at some diseases that home pets can spread:
This disease is caused by a virus that only survives in the animal’s saliva. Therefore, the way you can get infected is by direct contact between the saliva and an opening in your skin, usually a bite. After the bite, you can start feeling like having the flu (fever, headaches, body aches). Then, after a few days, you can have other symptoms like disorientation, excess salivation, and agitation. It can be lethal if left untreated.
The name can be confusing. Ringworm is a disease caused by a fungus, not a worm. It can be contracted through direct contact with your infected pet. The symptoms are the appearance of a red ring-like lesion in the skin that is itchy.
This is an infection caused by a bacteria that lives in the intestinal tract of animals. The most common form to get infected is through contaminated food or water. The people that get infected will have diarrhea or blood in the stools, abdominal pain, fever, and body aches.
4. Tick-borne diseases
Most tick-borne diseases are caused by bacteria transmitted by a tick bite, although ticks can also transmit parasite infections. After a tick bite, the symptoms that develop will vary depending on the bacteria or parasite that was spread. There can be symptoms that resemble the flu or a rash. Other symptoms can be abdominal pain, diarrhea, fever, headaches, confusion, or seizures.
MRSA (short for a bacteria called Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus) is not a common infection to get from your pets but is possible. This infection can be contracted through direct contact with your infected pet. The skin lesion can be confused with a spider bite, since it looks red, swollen, with pus drainage, and is painful and warm. You can present fever, too.
This infection, caused by a parasite, is passed through the stools of infected pets. Your dogs and cats can get it, from contaminated water or food. Symptoms can include watery diarrhea alternating with greasy stools, abdominal pain, gas, vomit, and general malaise.
The eggs of Hookworms are released within your pet’s feces. These eggs mature to form larvae that can penetrate your skin. It shouldn’t be a surprise that it mainly happens through your feet's skin. Once someone is infected, it is possible that the person does not show any symptoms, other than those of anemia due to the blood loss on the site of the intestine that the Hookworm attaches. Some symptoms of anemia are fatigue, pale skin, irregular heartbeats, dizziness, and shortness of breath.
This is a bacterial infection that can be spread through the contaminated urine of your pets. This type of infection increases when there are floods since the bacteria can survive for weeks and months in the water. This is a very serious infection; it can cause the failure of multiple organs and death if not treated. The symptoms are fever, muscle pain, headaches, vomits, diarrhea, and bleeding.
A parasite is responsible for this type of infection. And cats play a major role in this one. They become infected when eating small animals like mice. Then the parasite’s eggs pass out through the cat’s feces. People get contaminated when handling cats’ feces or any other surface where the parasite’s eggs have spread. Pregnant women with cats have to be very careful; if they got it, the infection can pass to the unborn child causing problems with the eyes and the nervous system.
10. Cat-scratch disease
Cats can pass the bacteria when they lick a person’s open wound or by biting or scratching the skin. Hence, the name Cat-scratch disease. After that happens, you can start presenting fever, malaise, headaches, and the area of the skin that was opened presents with round lesions with pus. After that, the lymph nodes close to the area will swell and be painful when touching them.
If you want to know more details about these and other diseases that can be transmitted by different groups of animals, check this resource.
How to protect our pets and ourselves?
Most of the time, when we talk about home pets, we think of cats and dogs. Let’s not forget that people also have birds, rodents, fish, and reptiles as pets. And others have pets that do not necessarily live inside the house like farm animals. All of them can spread diseases if the appropriate measures are not taken.
Here are some ways to keep you and your family safe:
1. Vaccinate your pets.
2. Be careful when playing with your pets to avoid bites or scratches.
3. Wash your hands with water and soap after touching your pets or handling the cat’s litter or the fish tank.
4. Keep your pets clean.
5. Consider a flea and tick collar for your pet.
6. Wear shoes or sandals in areas where pets walk around.
7. Wear garden gloves when handling soil in the garden.
8. Do not let your pets lick any open wounds or your face.
9. Protect your pet from the attack of other animals.
10. Do not let your pet eat food other than what you give them.
11. Do not let them drink water from another animal’s water bowl.
11. Bring your pets to the veterinary to get checked as soon as they show any symptoms.
I know that some measures are difficult to accomplish for many of you like avoiding your pet’s kisses. But the more cautious you are, the better. After all, the goal is to be safe while spreading love, not diseases.
In conclusion, pets are like family to many people. You love your pets. You share your dinner with them, take them on walks, and cuddle them while you watch TV. And in return, they show unconditional love, and that's a big reason so many people fall for their winks. But not everything about pets is rainbows — those cute little noses often spread bacteria, viruses, and parasites to their owners. Long story short: pet owners should know the risks of keeping animals in the home to prevent their pets from spreading harmful diseases to them and other people around them.
And as always, follow a healthy lifestyle and come back for the next topic.
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