As a pet owner, you expect to receive cuddles, kisses, and love from your furry pal, but you certainly do not expect to contract an illness. However, pets can carry pathogens or parasites that can be transmitted to people, causing illnesses that range from mild to deadly. Here are some of the most common—or most notorious—diseases your pet can transmit.

Your pet can give you rabies

Rabies is a virus transmitted through saliva that can infect mammals. While rabies is not a big concern among the U.S. domestic animal population, thanks to a strict vaccination program, the disease is still a serious threat if contracted. People can recover from rabies if they receive treatment before they develop symptoms; however, no treatment exists for pets. 

  • Signs in pets — Depending on the rabies form your pet has contracted, you may notice a fever, inability to swallow, change in bark tone, incoordination, excessive salivation, seizures, paralysis, difficulty breathing, aggression, and self-mutilation. The disease is ultimately fatal in pets.
  • Symptoms in people — The first rabies symptoms are flu-like and include weakness, discomfort, fever, or headache. You may also feel a prickling sensation at the bite site. Symptoms then progress to anxiety, confusion, and agitation, and you may experience delirium, hallucinations, fear of water, and insomnia. Once disease signs appear, rabies is always fatal, so you should always seek medical attention for any bite from an unvaccinated animal.

Your pet can give you leptospirosis

Leptospirosis (i.e., lepto) is a bacterial infection that is spread through contact with an infected animal’s urine. Sources can include wildlife and contaminated water, and infected dogs can transmit leptospirosis to people who handle their urine. Fortunately, a vaccination is available for lepto in dogs that can protect them from developing kidney or liver failure from this disease.

  • Signs in pets — Leptospirosis clinical signs can vary and be nonspecific. Your pet with lepto may develop a fever, muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhea, appetite loss, lethargy, and abdominal pain. More serious infections can cause jaundice and blood clotting problems.
  • Symptoms in people — If you contract lepto from your dog or contaminated water, you may experience a high fever, headache, chills, muscle aches, vomiting, diarrhea, jaundice, red eyes, abdominal pain, and a rash.

Your pet can give you Salmonella

While cats and dogs do not typically carry Salmonella like reptiles, poultry, amphibians, rodents, and livestock, they can pick up and pass on this bacteria. Your dog or cat can contract Salmonella from their environment or by eating contaminated or undercooked food. If you keep pet snakes, lizards, hamsters, or birds, you can contract Salmonella after handling them or anything in their habitat. Salmonella naturally lives in their intestines and can be found in their feces, so your exotic pet can become contaminated, as can their living environment. 

  • Signs in pets — Most animals with Salmonella do not show illness signs, but they may develop diarrhea, vomiting, a fever, or lethargy.
  • Symptoms in people — People who contract Salmonella can develop diarrhea, a fever, and stomach cramps. Infection is typically more severe in children 5 years old and younger, adults 65 and older, and people with weakened immune systems.

Your pet can give you toxoplasmosis

Toxoplasma gondii is a parasite commonly spread through feline feces, causing toxoplasmosis. To prevent toxoplasmosis in you and your cat, you should clean and disinfect the cat’s litter box frequently, and thoroughly wash your hands afterward.

  • Signs in pets — Healthy cats generally do not become ill with an infection. The most common toxoplasmosis signs in cats are fever, lethargy, and appetite loss. However, the parasite can infect various body parts and cause a wide range of signs, including pneumonia, jaundice, eye issues, and central nervous system problems.
  • Symptoms in people — While toxoplasmosis does not typically cause illness in healthy people, those who are immunocompromised and pregnant women can develop symptoms. Some people experience flu-like symptoms, including swollen lymph nodes and muscle pains and aches that last for a month or longer. Severe toxoplasmosis can affect the brain, eyes, or other organs, and may cause lasting eye or brain damage to babies who become infected in the womb.

Your pet can give you ringworm

Many animals, most commonly dogs, cats, pigs, horses, cows, and goats, can pass along the ringworm fungus through contact with people. Cats and dogs are often blamed for ringworm infections in children, but they can easily pick up this fungus in the soil where they play.

  • Signs in pets — Adult pets, especially long-haired pets, do not always show clear ringworm signs. Infected puppies and kittens may have hairless, circular, or irregularly shaped patches with crusting, scaling, and redness. 
  • Symptoms in people — Ringworm infections in people cause a characteristic reddened, circular skin lesion, and may cause a bald, scaly spot on the scalp.

Safeguarding your pet against infectious diseases and parasites is the best way to also protect yourself and your family. Schedule an appointment with our Animal Medical Hospital of Naples team to keep your pet current on their preventive care.