5 Ways Your Pet Can Make You Sick

Pets, although they can be the source of joy for animal lovers, have the potential to transmit diseases. Some people may be simply allergic to animal dander, but there are several ways a pet can make its human sick. Here are five of the more common diseases that humans can get from their household pets.

Skin Diseases

Your pet cat can make you sick with a skin condition called “cat scratch disease,” which is a reaction from a feline scratch. The disease is caused by bacteria that about 40 percent of cats carry. Symptoms of this disease include a headache and a fever that would start around three- to 14-days after getting scratched.

A cat is not the only household pet that can give you a skin condition. Dogs and rabbits can also make people itch with bites from mites and the fungal infection, ringworm.

A pet can make you sick with the germs they carry
Cats harbor the parasite, Toxoplasma gondii, which causes toxoplasmosis [Image by SandraKim/iStock]

Stomach diseases

Your beloved pet can also make you sick to your stomach by transmitting certain types of bacteria, like Campylobacter. Although dogs don’t usually get infected by Campylobacter, they can transmit this type of bacteria, which will induce week-long abdominal cramping, pain, and severe diarrhea.

Apart from that, a household pet, like amphibians and reptiles, can also transmit salmonella. Salmonellosis, a type of food poisoning, produces symptoms including diarrhea, fever, and abdominal pain. Although most people can recover without seeking professional medical help, some cases can be severe that the patient may need to visit the hospital.

Flu virus

Little is known about how a pet can make you sick with the flu, but it does happen in rare instances. In December, 2016, an outbreak of bird flu with strain HN72 was reported in an animal shelter in New York City with several of the shelter cats infected. One veterinarian tested positive for the virus after being exposed too long to the sick cats, but eventually recovered, the New York Times reported.

Although it happens rarely, a person can still get sick with the flu after having contact with an infected domestic pet, but the overall risk appears to be low, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


Rabies is a widely known disease that is spread via the bite of an animal infected with the virus. According to the CDC, most of the cases of rabies were observed in domesticated animals before the 1960s. But with the availability of the rabies vaccines, pets have been ruled out as a source of the rabies virus.

Still, the CDC gets reports of dogs and cats getting infected with the virus. It happens when an infected wild animal bites a household pet that has not been vaccinated against the disease. This results to a pet potentially making its human fatally sick.

Pet vaccination is an important part of responsible pet ownership
Pets should receive vaccines against certain diseases, like rabies [Image by


Your pet cat can also make you sick with toxoplasmosis, a condition caused by the parasite, Toxoplasma gondii, which is carried by cats. The condition can potentially damage the brain and other organs.

People can get sick with this condition by coming in contact with cat feces, which could happen when handling the litter box. T. gondii can also be passed on to the developing fetus, with a small percentage of mothers giving birth to babies with brain or eye damage. For this reason, pregnant mothers are advised not to handle a litter box or they could seriously get sick and endanger the health of their baby.

While some people treat their household pets as family members, it is still important to remember that these domesticated animals can somehow harbor germs that will make humans sick. Even if pet owners share beds with their beloved furry companions, or kiss them and hug them often, proper hygiene and handwashing techniques should still be observed. More importantly, pets should have regular trips to the veterinarian to assess their well-being.

[Featured Image by Fly_dragonfly/iStock]