With flu season in full effect, there is usually plenty of fighting over the tissue box this time of year! It’s so important to take preventative steps from getting sick, but sometimes it can be unavoidable. Part of being a responsible pet owner is taking preventative steps to ensure your pets’ best health too, right? Of course! So, with that in mind, is it possible to get sick from your pet?
There are some illnesses that you cannot catch from your pet or transmit to them, and there are some that you can. It’s important to know which ones and how to detect them.
So what illness can be transmitted to my pet? Common colds & the flu virus cannot be transmitted to your pet from you. They can be extremely contagious to other humans, so limit your interaction and contact with others when sick. And if you don’t feel well, stay home and rest! Pets are susceptible to upper respiratory infection or kennel cough, which can cause symptoms similar to a cold/flu (runny nose & eyes, coughing, sneezing, etc), but these illnesses are only contagious to other cats & dogs, not humans. If your pet is exhibiting any symptoms that make you suspicious that of illness, consult your veterinarian right away.
If anyone has ever had strep throat, they know firsthand that this is an illness wished upon no one. The last thing you want to do if you have strep, is give it to your beloved pet! So, what is the possibility of my pet catching strep throat from me? According to WebMD, the likelihood is relatively low. However, the bacteria that causes strep throat, known as the group A streptococcal, can be transmitted to dogs through human contact. This does not mean that your dog will develop a sore throat or even become sick. What happens is that they then are carrier of the virus, and harbor the virus in their upper respiratory tract, creating a possibility for them to develop an illness in the future. It’s best to eliminate the bacteria spreading in the house, by washing hands, keeping countertops/surfaces clean, and getting your entire household checked out (two and four legged animals!).
Now that you know what you could transmit to your pet, it’s important to point out what illness can be transmitted from your pet to you. Most of these illnesses are grouped as zoonotic, also known as an ‘infectious disease spread by a species’. Zoonotic diseases include lice, scabies, Lyme disease, and toxoplasmosis.
Lice and scabies are easily transmitted from pet to pet owner because you are often in close proximity to your pet. You snuggle with them on the couch, hug them goodbye, or even sleep with them every night! It’s important to pay attention to the symptoms of these diseases, as they are both very similar: severe itching, hair loss, and skin irritation. If you notice any of these symptoms in your pet, seek medical attention right away to prevent secondary infections from occurring.
Lyme disease is less common, but still a prevalent issue with pets and pet owners. The disease is contracted by a tick, which makes it easy for both you and your pet to become infected due once again to close proximity. Ticks may also be carriers of Rocky Mountain Fever, which is a serious illness for humans. Checking your pet daily for ticks is imperative to ensuring that they (and you) are not been at risk for infection.
Toxoplasmosis is caused by a parasite and can be found in almost any warm-blooded animal. Cats are generally prime targets for the parasite that causes the most significant toxoplasmosis exposure. Although roughly 1/3 of humans can be infected with toxoplasmosis, it is at higher risk to pregnant women or people with compromised immune systems. This is why it is often recommended that pregnant women do not change cat litter by doctors. To learn more about toxoplasmosis, read here.
The last and most serious infection transmitted from pets to their owners is the rabies infection. This disease is incurable and fatal without treatment prior to symptoms showing. Keeping your pet’s vaccinations up to date and seeking immediate medical attention if bitten by an animal is key to preventing the spread of this disease. To learn more about rabies, read here.
Being sick is no fun, but there are ways to minimize spreading and preventing disease. Keeping your pets vaccinated, staying aware of developing symptoms and seeking medical treatment when needed is key to having a happy and healthy life with you and your pet!