Owning a dog is good for both your physical and emotional wellbeing. Dogs make us happier, healthier, and less stressed. While the chances are very low, there is also a risk your dog could spread harmful germs, illnesses, and diseases to you. Next time your dog goes in for a face lick, you might want to think twice. So, can your dog make you sick? How can you avoid catching illnesses from your canine companion?
What are zoonotic diseases?
Zoonotic diseases, each considered a zoonosis, are infectious diseases that have transitioned from an animal to humans. Zoonotic infections can be bacterial, viral, or parasitic, and can spread to humans by direct contact with domestic, agricultural, or wild animals, or through food and water. They can cause many different types of illness in people ranging from mild to serious, and even death.
How can your dog get you sick?
Unlike catching a bug from a friend or colleague, contracting an illness from your pet is highly unlikely and very rare. However, the ways in which humans do catch zoonotic diseases are similar to the spread of human-to-human diseases. It is possible for you to get sick from your dog in the following ways:
- Saliva – If your dog is sick with a zoonosis, you can contract the illness from contaminated surfaces like their food and water bowls or toys. Your dog can also pass on their germs by licking your face or hands (which you then use to touch your eyes or mouth).
- Feces – Illnesses in dogs are often transmitted through their stool. Be sure to avoid direct contact when picking up your dog’s poop and immediately wash your hands to avoid contamination.
- Close contact – For diseases caused by external parasites like fleas and ticks, being in close physical proximity to your dog, like sleeping in the same bed, can put you at risk. As it turns out, all of that money you spend on flea and tick medicine doesn’t just benefit your pup—it benefits you, too.
Possible zoonotic illnesses in dogs
Although it’s rare for people to catch illnesses from pets, there are a number of diseases, known as zoonotic diseases, that can spread from animals to people. Germs from dogs can cause a variety of illnesses, from minor skin infections to serious illnesses.
Some known zoonotic diseases in dogs include: