Can Your Dog Make You Sick?

Zoonotic diseases travel between humans and animals. Find out which ones pose a real threat.

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Is your dog making you sick? Can you contaminate your pet when you have the flu? Diseases that can potentially pass from animals to humans are called zoonotic diseases, and according to the World Health Organization, approximately 70 percent of emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic. These diseases are transmitted by parasites, bacteria, viruses and fungi. Zoonotic diseases significantly impact human and animal health.

“Every animal is carrying something that could be transmissible to a person in certain situations,” says J. Scott Weese, D.V.M., DVSc, Dipl. ACVIM, a professor in the department of pathobiology at Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada. “The likelihood of disease transmission in a household is low compared to [that of someone] in the hospital. The risk gets higher for a person with a compromised immune system.”

Movement of bacteria between people and their dogs is a regular occurrence. Although most bacteria are harmless, sometimes even beneficial, some bacteria species are pathogenic and cause infectious disease. “Considering the type of close contact we have with our pets that we really don’t have with many other individuals, it’s not surprising that things move back and forth,” Weese says. “Still, the actual amount of diseases that occurs in your average household with healthy people is extremely low.”

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