Can My Pet Make Me Sick?

In This Article

If your pet gets sick, you may worry that you or your child may catch the same illness. As well, you might worry about your pet catching an illness from you. The answer depends on what is causing the illness in you or your pet.

What You Won’t Catch From Your Pet

Most of the common illnesses that affect humans do not affect pets in the same way and vice versa. So if your cat has a minor cold, you aren’t going to catch it from her. The viruses that give animals things like coughs, colds, and the flu are different from the ones that cause these illnesses in people and they don’t spread back and forth between humans and animals.

Some illnesses that affect pets that do not affect humans include:

Common colds and upper respiratory illnesses: There are several viruses that can cause upper respiratory diseases in cats and dogs. None of these are transmitted to humans but can be very contagious to other dogs or cats. Of course, there are hundreds of viruses that cause colds in humans, but you can't usually spread them to your pets either. Dogs generally will not catch human cold viruses, but some think that cats might rarely catch some types of human colds.

Canine parvovirus: This virus causes vomiting and diarrhea in dogs, among other symptoms and can be very serious or even fatal. There is an illness known as parvovirus B19, or fifth disease, that can make people (usually children) sick, but it is a completely different virus. The symptoms of fifth disease include a rash, low-grade fever and sometimes cold-like symptoms.

Canine bordatellosis (kennel cough): This chronic and often severe cough can cause serious respiratory complications for your dog and is highly contagious among dogs. It generally does not affect humans, but those with respiratory disease or immune compromise might be infected. It is caused by a variety of bacteria and viruses, acting in sequence or together.

Heartworms: These are parasitic worms spread by the bite of a mosquito, which is a host for one stage of the worm's development. Left untreated, heartworms will be fatal to your dog or cat, but they are not transmitted to humans by pets.

Can't Catch From Pet

  • Respiratory infections (colds, influenza)

  • Kennel cough

  • Canine parvovirus

  • Heartworms

Could Catch From Pet

  • Tick-borne infections

  • Scabies

  • Toxoplasmosis

  • Salmonella

  • Rabies

  • Ringworm

  • MRSA

  • Cat scratch disease

What You Could Catch From Your Pet

There are several serious illnesses that you can catch from your pet. Some of these illnesses will make your pet sick as well, but some will not. These are known as zoonotic diseases and include:

Lyme disease: Animals get Lyme disease from ticks, just like humans do. It is caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi, which is transmitted by the bite of the tick. You will not get Lyme disease just because your pet has it, but the same tick that infected your pet could have infected you as well. Dog ticks may carry Rocky Mountain spotted fever, which is a very serious illness for humans and is caused by the bacteria Rickettsia parkeri. If you have pets, you should check them daily for ticks and also check yourself and your children if you have been outside.

Mange or scabies: These conditions are caused by mites. Well-fed and well-kept cats rarely get mange or scabies, but it is much more common in dogs. “Red mange” is not a concern for humans, but the mange that is also known as scabies is highly contagious to humans. The symptoms include severe itching, skin irritation, and hair loss in dogs as well as humans. It should be treated as soon as possible to prevent secondary infections.

Toxoplasmosis: Toxoplasmosis is caused by a parasite and it has been found in virtually all warm-blooded animals. Cats make the perfect host for the parasite that causes the most serious infections. It is really only a threat to pregnant women (because it can cause severe harm to the fetus) and people with compromised immune systems. As many as a third of adults have been infected with the disease and are immune to it. It causes no serious threat to healthy, non-pregnant humans. Pregnant women and those with compromised immune systems should not change cat litter, avoid eating any undercooked or raw meat and wash hands and cooking utensils thoroughly after handling raw meat.

Salmonella: Salmonella is a bacteria that usually does not make animals sick, but it can be found in the feces of some pets, especially those with diarrhea. It is also commonly found on reptiles that are kept as pets. Reptiles, even turtles, should not be kept as pets in a household with children under 5 years old because this age group is most susceptible to complications from salmonella infection and the most likely to put things in their mouths.

Rabies: Caused by a virus, rabies is the most severe and serious infection that can be passed from animals to humans is rabies. This incurable and fatal viral disease has been found all over the world. It is extremely important to have your pets vaccinated against it and if you or your pet is bitten by another animal, seek medical attention immediately. You should also try to find out the immunization status of the other animal if it is someone else’s pet or capture it if it is wild (and you can do so without being bitten again) so that it can be tested.

Ringworm: This is a fungal skin infection caused by Microsporum species. It can be spread from pets to humans and humans to pets by contact.

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA): This antibiotic-resistant bacteria can be harbored by cats and dogs and spread to humans, and vice-versa. As with humans, often the pet will have no symptoms, or it may cause an infection.

Cat scratch disease: This infection is caused by the bacteria Bartonella henselae, spread by cat scratches (especially by kittens). In humans, it's usually a mild infection with a raised bump or a swollen lymph node, but it can affect the eyes and be more severe. Cat scratches may also transmit a fungal infection called sporotrichosis.

What Your Pet Can Catch From You

As mentioned, you may transmit ringworm or MRSA to your pet, as well as your pet spreading these to you. There are another few human diseases you can give to your pet.

Mumps: This viral illness can be spread to your dog. While formerly a common childhood disease, it is now prevented in humans by the MMR vaccine. It could be a concern in communities where vaccination rates are low.

Diarrheal illnesses: Your pets can be infected by illnesses spread by human or animal fecal contamination of water or surfaces. These include the bacteria Campylobacter and Salmonella and the parasite Giardia. As in humans, these may cause diarrhea in cats and dogs, or they may have no symptoms. Research has also shown that dogs may be infected with norovirus (a cause of human stomach flu) in households where their human companions have had norovirus, and the dog may have symptoms. If you have a diarrheal illness, be sure to use good hygiene, wash your hands after using the restroom, and perhaps keep your pets out of your bathroom until the illness resolves.

Tuberculosis: Dogs are susceptible to the human form of the tuberculosis bacteria, Mycobacterium tuberculosis. They may have respiratory or digestive symptoms. Cats generally are not infected by the human form of tuberculosis but may be infected by the version found in cattle.

A Word From Verywell

Pets are great companions, but it is important to keep them healthy. Make sure their shots are up to date and they are well cared for. You will keep them and your family healthier that way. If you are concerned about a minor virus, such as a cold, being passed between your family and your pet, don’t be. But if you have any fear that your pet may have something more serious that could be passed on to you or your family, contact your vet and your healthcare provider.

Was this page helpful?

Article Sources

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Kennel Club. Dog myths debunked: Can I get a cold from my dog? Updated July 29, 2018.

  2. Central California SPCA. Can dogs get sick from humans? Updated May 10, 2017.

  3. Macri A, Crane JS. Parvoviruses. In: StatPearls. Updated March 4, 2019.

  4. UC Davis Kore Shelter Medicine Program. Canine infectious respiratory disease complex (CIRDC, a.k.a. "kennel cough"). Updated July 9, 2015.

  5. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Keep the worms out of your pet's heart! The facts about heartworm disease. Updated August 22, 2019.

  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dogs. Updated October 28, 2019.

  7. Dryden MW. Mite infestation (mange, acariasis, scabies) in dogs. Merck Manual Veterinary Manual.

  8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Parasites—Toxoplasmosis (Toxoplasma infection). Updated August 29, 2018.

  9. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Salmonella infection. Updated September 24, 2015.

  10. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Rabies. Updated September 17, 2019.

  11. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cats. Updated April 1, 2019.

  12. Ghasemzadeh I, Namazi SH. Review of bacterial and viral zoonotic infections transmitted by dogsJ Med Life. 2015;8(Spec Iss 4):1–5.

  13. LoBue PA, Enarson DA, Thoen CO. Tuberculosis in humans and animals: an overview. Int J Tuberc Lung Dis. 2010;14(9):1075-8.