Warning: From Pets to Humans

Studies have shown that pets are good for humans on multiple levels. Pets can bring energy and life to your environment, mentally they help reduce stress and provide comfort, and they make you feel better physically, too. But there can be a dangerous downside to pets and farm animals, and that is the diseases that they can transmit to humans.

Posted on | Susan Evans, MD | Comments ()

Studies have shown that pets are good for humans on multiple levels. Pets can bring energy and life to your environment, mentally they help reduce stress and provide comfort, and they make you feel better physically, too. But there can be a dangerous downside to pets and farm animals, and that is the diseases that they can transmit to humans.


Domestic pets are animals, which means they have the potential of carrying many diseases no matter how well you care for them. While it is not always easy to transmit a disease from animal to person, it does happen. These diseases, called zoonotic diseases, are usually, but not always, easily treatable. Pregnant women, children, the elderly, and anyone with a weakened immune system need to be extra careful around pets and farm animals because they are more susceptible to receiving the disease.


One of the most common ways of getting a zoonotic disease is from not taking extra caution when handling your pet’s excretion. A lot of the bacteria live in an animal’s urine or stool, so make sure you do not come in direct contact with it by thoroughly washing hands. This can minimize your chances of getting a disease from your pet.


This is one of the reasons women are encouraged to let other people clean the litter box while pregnant. A very serious and dangerous disease called toxoplasmosis is easily transmitted from the litter box to a pregnant woman, posing a serious health risk to her unborn child. Cats can also be responsible for causing Cat Scratch Fever, which can cause high fevers and swollen lymph nodes. This disease can be transmitted through a cat’s scratch because of the bacteria on the cat’s claws from walking around in the litter box.


Other diseases that can do harm if they are transmitted from your pet or your farm animals to you include ringworm and roundworm, which are also found in animal stool. Salmonellosis, which is the same bacteria that can be found in contaminated food, can also be transmitted through an infected animal’s excretions. Scabies are an itch mite that can be transmitted from affected pets and farm animals to humans through dander, fur, or skin contact.


Although diseases can be transmitted from pets to humans, this does not mean that you should say goodbye to Fido or Kitty or sell your beloved horses. They really are good for your mind, and in turn, for your body. It just means that extra care should be taken when handling any animal. Coming into contact with their excretions, or sometimes even just their fur or skin, can cause a disease to get transmitted from them to you. Be sure your pets and farm animals have regular veterinarian checkups to make sure they are in good health and disease free. Then go ahead and play with your pet, just remember to wash up really well afterwards!

Blog written by Susan Evans, MD
Dr. Susan Evans is an internationally acclaimed, health and beauty expert one of Oprah's and Dr. Oz's healthy skin and beauty...