Can you catch a disease from your pet?

Healthy pets mean healthy people – when your dog, cat, rabbit, guinea pig and turtle are well, they’ll enhance your life and not pose a health risk. But if your pet is sick, there’s a small chance they could pass what’s wrong onto you.

Sicknesses that can be transmitted from pets to people are called ‘zoonotic diseases’. Zoonotic diseases are rarely passed on as long as we look after our pets and take a few simple hygiene measures.

Staying safe from the risk of infection from your pet

It pays to look after your pet and to make sure you wash your hands often after you’ve played with them. Stay safe and hygienic by:

  • taking your pet for a yearly vet check
  • keep up to date with worm treatment (often 3 monthly treatments)
  • keep up to date with flea treatment (often 1 monthly treatments)
  • not touching your pet’s poo – use a bag or disposable gloves
  • wearing gloves when weeding the garden (buried cat poo)
  • trying not to let your pet lick your face
  • ensuring your pet’s bedding is clean
  • providing fresh drinking water and a balanced diet
  • bathing and grooming your pet regularly

Common zoonotic diseases

Even though there’s a heap of zoonotic diseases to look out for, all of them can be prevented. Here are the most common:

Cat scratch disease

Pet: Cats and kittens

How it’s transmitted: Via a scratch or a bite

What happens to you: Swollen lymph nodes and fever. In worse cases, it can lead to septicemia (bacteria getting into the blood stream).

Prevention: Flea control and avoiding being scratched or bitten



Pet: Cats, dogs and many other animals

How it’s transmitted: Contracted from the faeces (poo) of infected animals

What happens to you: Infection, fever, diarrhoea and vomiting

Prevention: Good hygiene and healthy feeding – don’t feed your pet raw, contaminated meat



Pet: Birds

How it’s transmitted: Touching bird poo or inhaling dried bird secretions

What happens to you: Flu-like symptoms

Prevention: Good hygiene measures



Pet: Infected animals

How it’s transmitted: Contact with an infected animal

What happens to you: Diarrhoea, stomach cramps and feeling sick

Prevention: Good hygiene measures



Pet: Cats, dogs and other companion animals

How it’s transmitted: Contact with fungal spores

What happens to you: Itchy rashes (often not in rings – as the name suggests)

Prevention: Good hygiene measures



Pet: Cats, dogs, reptiles, chickens

How it’s transmitted: Contracted from the faeces of infected pets

What happens to you: Diarrhoea and vomiting

Prevention: Good hygiene and healthy feeding – don’t feed your pet raw, contaminated meat



Pet: Cats

How it’s transmitted: Not washing hands after cleaning cat litter tray; not washing hands after gardening

What happens to you: Fever and swollen lymph nodes; can cause miscarriage and birth defects during pregnancy

Prevention: Good hygiene around cats and after gardening/touching soil.



Pet: Dogs and cats

How it’s transmitted: Contact with poo or contaminated soil

What happens to you: Infection caused by roundworms, hookworms and tapeworms

Prevention: Worm pets every three months and take good hygiene measures

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