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What to know about disease transmission between pets and people

Just like humans, animals can develop and spread illnesses. People who welcome pets into their homes may be concerned about transmission from pets to people as well as other animals to pets. To alleviate some fears, here's some information about disease transmission among pets, people and other animals.


Heartworm cannot spread from pets to people, and humans rarely get heartworm. Heartworm cannot be caught from another pet like a cold or flu. It only spreads through mosquito bites. Two pets in the same household would each have to be bitten by infected mosquitoes to contract heartworm.

Roundworm and hookworm

These are parasites that can be found in dogs and cats. The worms' eggs and larvae are passed from pets through stool. People can get hookworms through the skin by walking barefoot outside (a common reason why dogs tend to be off-limits on beaches during swimming season). Anyone may also accidentally eat roundworm eggs from touching the mouth or eating after inadvertently touching the eggs and failing to wash their hands.


Tapeworm is an intestinal parasite that cats and dogs can get when bitten by an infected flea. However, humans contract it from eating contaminated meats.


Although it's essentially been eradicated from domestic pet populations, rabies remains a concern among wild animals. A bite or scratch to a human or pet from a wild animal is cause for concern and should be brought to the attention of a veterinarian.


Toxoplasmosis is a parasitic infection in cat feces that doesn't produce symptoms in healthy adults but is a concern for pregnant women and their unborn children.

Cryptococcosis and psittacosis

Cryptococcosis is a yeast present in bird droppings, especially from pigeons, that can cause pneumonia and meningitis in people with weak immune systems.

Individuals with pet birds should be aware of psittacosis, which is a bacteria that can infect pet birds. Someone who cleans the cage can become infected after breathing the dust from accumulated droppings. Symptoms include coughing and high fever.


This disease typically spreads through the urine of wildlife. So dogs or cats that spend time outdoors may come in contact with contaminated urine from wild animals, or drink from contaminated puddles. Many vets now immunize against leptospirosis.

These are just a few of the illnesses that can affect pets, wild animals and humans. Proper hygiene, medical care and observation of symptoms should be paramount in homes with pets.


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