Can Pets Make You Sick?

By Justine A Lee, DVM, DACVECC
Associate Director of Veterinary Services

You love your pet, but you won’t love an illness your dog or cat transmits to you. Here is how to prevent 3 of the most common diseases pets can pass to humans.

Cat Scratch Disease

Those bared claws can potentially pass on the bacterium Bartonella henselae into your scratched skin, leading to an infection with symptoms ranging from fever to swollen lymph nodes. Be extra careful around kittens–they carry the bacteria more than grown cats and tend to scratch more.

Prevent it: Keep feline nails neatly trimmed. If you’re not sure how to trim properly, ask your vet to show you.

Larval Migrans (aka worms)

Intestinal worms can be found in your dog’s or cat’s feces. Touching contaminated feces or soil can result in a skin infection. If you forget to wash your hands before sitting down to a meal and ingest the eggs, the worms can travel through the body, causing a variety of symptoms and potential damage to your eyes, lungs, brain, and other organs.

Prevent it: Deworm your pet regularly at vet visits. Plus, make proper poop scooping and hand washing a priority.

Fungal Infections (aka ringworm)

Cats carry ringworm on their fur more frequently than dogs and are typically asymptomatic; dogs will almost always show signs of the infection, such as raised, circular lesions and hair loss. When ringworm is passed on to humans, it produces red, raised lesions that you’ll notice on your body.

Treat it: Use an OTC antifungal cream. Unfortunately, ringworm can’t be prevented, but the lesions will disappear in a few weeks with regular applications.

Copyright 2009, Prevention October 2009