Can Your Pet Get You Sick?

You love sharing your home — and maybe even your bed — with your four-legged friends, but can your pet get you sick? Though rare, it’s possible. Here’s a look at five animal-borne illnesses and what you can do to prevent them.


Giardiasis is an intestinal infection caused by a microscopic parasite. More commonly seen in dogs than in cats, your furry friend likely picked it up from a lake, river or creek. In humans, symptoms include nausea, stomach cramps and diarrhea, and should be treated with antiparasitic medications.

To prevent giardiasis, take clean drinking water with you on hikes and outdoor excursions. Go to dog parks where pet owners pick up after their dogs, and always wash your hands after you finish cleaning up after your pet.


Campylobacter is bacteria that causes campylobacteriosis, one of the most common causes of diarrhea, cramping and abdominal pain in humans and animals in the U.S. It can be spread via contact with young animals like puppies and kittens as well as horses, rabbits, ferrets and even birds. People usually recover without medical intervention, but young pets may need to see a veterinarian if the condition doesn’t improve.

To prevent this illness, don’t handle your puppy or kitten excessively if it has diarrhea. If you do, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly. Even after the animal’s symptoms subside, wash your hands after touching it. Your pet can have campylobacter bacteria even after symptoms stop.

Cat Scratch Disease

Around 40 percent of healthy cats carry the Bartonella bacteria at some point in their lives. The germ lives in cats’ nails and can be passed to humans through a scratch. Cats who have the disease might experience fatigue and have swollen lymph nodes. Humans may experience swollen lymph nodes, fever, headache, joint pain, weight loss and a small, red bump near the scratch,.

Most people will recover on their own, but those with weakened immune systems may need antibiotics. To prevent the disease, trim your cat’s nails and prevent your cat from licking open wounds on your body.


Toxoplasmosis is a disease also transmitted between cats and people. Most cats develop immunity to the disease, but kittens might develop diarrhea, or lung or liver problems. Humans often have no symptoms, but might feel as if they have the flu.

Toxoplasmosis is especially a concern for pregnant women because it can cause child developmental problems, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If possible, prevent your cat from hunting outdoors. Wash your hands after cleaning litter boxes, and if you’re pregnant, pass that job to someone else until your baby arrives.


Tapeworm infection can be spread between pets and people. Children are especially vulnerable if they don’t wash their hands regularly. Tapeworms are unpleasant for everyone, but can be easily treated with anti-worm medication. You may see your dog dragging his hind quarters across the ground or may notice rice-like pellets in feces or vomit. The same particles will also appear in human stool. Tapeworms are spread by fleas, so make sure to give pets flea prevention treatments.

Can your pet get you sick? Yes, but fortunately many of the illnesses are rare and can be easily treated.

Advice or recommendations are for informational or educational purposes only, not a substitute for a visit or consultation with your doctor.

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