Zoonoses are diseases which can be transmitted from animals to humans or from humans to animals (sometimes called reverse zoonoses). Most pets can transmit certain diseases to human beings.
Humans who are more susceptible to catching zoonoses are:
- Infants and small children, since their immune systems are not fully developed and they have poor hygiene.
- Pregnant women have compromised immune systems and their are risks to the fetus as well. See more: Pets and Pregnancy
- The elderly may also have a compromised immune system.
- Patients undergoing treatments such as AIDS and cancer patients. See more: Pets for Cancer Patients
- Animal health care workers such as vets, zoo and wildlife workers.
You can protect yourself from these diseases. Keep your pet clean and healthy, and when you notice a problem visit the vet immediately. Your vet should let you know whether your pet could have transmitted a disease to you. When you visit your own doctor, be sure to mention which pets you own in order to facilitate diagnosis if you have caught a zoonosis.
In order to prevent catching an infection from a pet, it is important to wash hands with soap and water after contact. It is especially important to do this before you eat. Be very careful if you feed your pets a raw diet. If you cook your own pet food, make sure the meat is fully cooked and don’t let your pet eat out of the garbage.
According to the CDC there is evidence that dogs may be able to contract certain flu viruses from people. Symptoms are the same and as with such respiratory diseases, secondary infections are possible. There doesn’t appear to be evidence that people can contract the flu from their dogs.