June 1, 2015
2 minute read

Pets Can Transmit Diseases to Humans

Maybe Mom was right. Letting the dog lick your face is probably not the best idea. Advances in medical diagnostic tests now show that pets can transmit many diseases to humans, and such animal-to-human infection could be more common than anyone thought.

However, that doesn’t mean having pets is a bad idea. Rather, it’s important for families to choose the right type of pet and use some guidelines to keep human owners healthy, according to a new report from scientists at Ohio State University and Canadian researchers. The analysis is based on a review of more than 500 studies.

According to the report, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, there are nearly 20 different diseases that are commonly acquired from pets, including salmonella, E. coli, and roundworms. Different species of pets, such as dogs, cats, fish, or rodents, carry different types of disease. The animals’ ability to transmit disease also depends on their stages of life. For example, adult cats and dogs may be less likely to shed harmful organisms compared to kittens and puppies.

Tips to keep pet owners healthy

You can reduce the risk of getting sick from pets’ germs by following these recommendations:

  • Wash hands thoroughly after every time you’re in contact with a pet.
  • Protect yourself with gloves when cleaning up after animals.
  • Clean and disinfect pet habitats and supplies regularly.
  • Keep litter boxes away from places where food is prepared or eaten.
  • Maintain your pet’s health with regular veterinary exams.
  • Avoid pets most likely to carry zoonotic disease (exotics, reptiles, and amphibians).
  • Discourage your pet from licking people’s faces.
  • Wait to get a new pet if someone in the household has lowered immune function.

Likewise, a human’s ability to contract an infectious disease can depend on the strength of his or her immune system. Those most likely to catch diseases spread by animals (zoonotic diseases) are those with weakened immune systems, pregnant women, and the very young or old.

Families should discuss their zoonotic disease risk with their family doctor or their pet’s veterinarian, says Jason Stull, assistant professor of veterinary preventive medicine at Ohio State.

“Surveys suggest that most veterinarians and physicians do not regularly discuss zoonotic disease risks with clients, patients or each other,” Stull says. “That needs to change if we are going to effectively reduce pet-associated diseases. It’s all about safe pet ownership. There are very few situations in which a person couldn’t or shouldn’t have some type of pet if they wish. It’s about matching the right species with the right person and taking the appropriate precautions.”

Diseases that can be transmitted to humans from dogs include ringworm, salmonella, rabies, giardiasis, lyme disease, and MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). Cats can transmit such diseases as hookworm and ringworm although one of the most serious is toxoplasmosis, which can cause health problems in a fetus if contracted during pregnancy.

“Pets do so much good for people in terms of mental, physical, and emotional health,” Stull says. “But at the same time, they can transmit diseases to us. Physicians, veterinarians, and the public have to work together to make sure the benefits outweigh the risks.”

The study, which was co-authored by researchers at Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario and Ontario Veterinary College, was funded in part by the Canadian Institutes of Health.

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© 2022 HealthMarkets Insurance Agency. All rights reserved.

To send a complaint to Medicare, call 1-800-MEDICARE (TTY users should call 1- 877-486-2048), 24 hours a day/7 days a week). If your complaint involves a broker or agent, be sure to include the name of the person when filing your grievance.

We do not offer every plan available in your area. Any information we provide is limited to those plans we do offer in your area. Please contact Medicare.gov or 1-800-MEDICARE (TTY users should call 1- 844-704-7357), 24 hours a day/7 days a week, to get information on all of your options.

Attention: This website is operated by HealthMarkets Insurance Agency, Inc. and is not the Health Insurance Marketplace® website. HealthMarkets Insurance Agency, Inc. is licensed as an insurance agency in all 50 states and DC. Not all agents are licensed to sell all products. Service and product availability varies by state. Sales agents may be compensated based on a consumer’s enrollment in an insurance plan. No obligation to enroll. Agent cannot provide tax or legal advice. Contact your tax or legal professional to discuss details regarding your individual business circumstances. Our quoting tool is provided for your information only. All quotes are estimates and are not final until consumer is enrolled. Medicare has neither reviewed nor endorsed this information.

HealthMarkets Insurance Agency offers the opportunity to enroll in either QHPs or off-Marketplace coverage. Please visit HealthCare.gov for information on the benefits of enrolling in a QHP. Off-Marketplace coverage is not eligible for the cost savings offered for coverage through the Marketplaces.

This information is not a complete description of benefits. Call the Plan’s customer service phone number for more information.

© 2022 HealthMarkets Insurance Agency. All rights reserved.

To send a complaint to Medicare, call 1-800-MEDICARE (TTY users should call 1- 877-486-2048), 24 hours a day/7 days a week). If your complaint involves a broker or agent, be sure to include the name of the person when filing your grievance.

We do not offer every plan available in your area. Any information we provide is limited to those plans we do offer in your area. Please contact Medicare.gov or 1-800-MEDICARE (TTY users should call 1- 844-704-7357), 24 hours a day/7 days a week, to get information on all of your options.

Attention: This website is operated by HealthMarkets Insurance Agency, Inc. and is not the Health Insurance Marketplace® website. HealthMarkets Insurance Agency, Inc. is licensed as an insurance agency in all 50 states and DC. Not all agents are licensed to sell all products. Service and product availability varies by state. Sales agents may be compensated based on a consumer’s enrollment in an insurance plan. No obligation to enroll. Agent cannot provide tax or legal advice. Contact your tax or legal professional to discuss details regarding your individual business circumstances. Our quoting tool is provided for your information only. All quotes are estimates and are not final until consumer is enrolled. Medicare has neither reviewed nor endorsed this information.

HealthMarkets Insurance Agency offers the opportunity to enroll in either QHPs or off-Marketplace coverage. Please visit HealthCare.gov for information on the benefits of enrolling in a QHP. Off-Marketplace coverage is not eligible for the cost savings offered for coverage through the Marketplaces.

This information is not a complete description of benefits. Call the Plan’s customer service phone number for more information.