Are you at risk from diseases you can catch from your pets? Yes, but there are plenty of steps you can take to reduce or eliminate that risk!
Q: My dog has giardia. Do I need to be worried that he could transmit it to me or the kids?
A: The good news is that the type of giardia that commonly infects dogs and cats isn’t the same as the one that commonly infects humans. In the rare instances that do occur, it’s usually because the person has a weak immune system.
But there are plenty of other zoonoses (zoe-uh-NOH-seez) — diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans: parasites such as roundworms and hookworms; fungal infections such as ringworm; salmonellosis; and the deadly virus rabies. Keep in mind, too, that many infectious diseases in humans can also be transmitted to animals, including MRSA, the influenza A virus and COVID-19. In most cases, the risk is low, but either way, you and your family members should take basic hygiene steps to prevent transmission.
Kids are at high risk because their immune systems haven’t had a lot of training yet, as are seniors, whose immune systems may have diminishing strength, and people with illnesses such as cancer or HIV. But everyone should wash their hands with soap and running water after handling raw food or pet food or petting animals. Pick up dog poop and scoop the litter box daily.
On the pet side, the use of parasite preventives for dogs and cats and having them dewormed on a regular basis means they are less likely to acquire and transmit bugs that you don’t want to have. Rabies vaccinations for cats and dogs — even if they spend most of their time indoors — protect all of you from this fatal disease. It’s not uncommon for bats, which can carry rabies, to fly into houses, or for cats and dogs to escape outdoors, where they could come in contact with a rabid animal.
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