Zoonosis: Diseases You Can Catch from Your Dog

By: DogTrekker Staff
Girl kissed by dog. Yech

By Bill Barboni, DVM and Chris Pitts, RVT,
Marin Pet Hospital, San Rafael, CA

We love our dogs. They are loyal companions who bring us endless joy. They will share their ball, their bed and even a treat. However, it’s good to remember that they can occasionally share diseases with us too. There are vaccines to prevent many of the diseases in question, but its wise to know about these.

  1. Rabies. Rabies is a debilitating virus that attacks the brain. It is usually transmitted from an infected animal via a bite. Rabies travels from the point of the bite to the brain where is causes paralysis. The notion of a rabid dog foaming at the mouth derives from a rabies' victim's inability to swallow due to this paralysis, and therefore, looking like he is foaming at the mouth. The only way to determine if an animal has rabies is to test the brain issue. Even if a human has been vaccinated against rabies, once bitten, even the vaccinated need to receive booster shots. Rabies is fatal and there is no known cure.
  2. Leptospirosis. Leptospirosis is a spiral shaped bacteria that lives in standing water like puddles or ponds. It enters the system via abrasions in the skin or via mucus membranes. The most common manner of transmission from dog to human is via contaminated urine. Easy prevention includes washing hands immediately after coming in contact with dog urine. The early stages of Lepto infection are easily treated with Amoxicillin and Doxycycline, but the later stages of the disease can cause enough kidney impairment to be fatal. There is a canine vaccine for Lepto. However, there are seven types of Lepto and the vaccine does not cover every type.
  3. Ringworm. Ringworm is highly contagious. Often, by the time you realize that your dog has a telltale loss of hair, you may well have contracted ringworm too. In fact, it is not uncommon to have a parent take their child to the pediatrician for the telltale human ringworm sign – a reddish ring on the surface of the skin, and then have the parent bring the family dog in to be diagnosed. Treatment in dogs typically consists of a course of antibiotics paired with a shampoo regimen and topical cream.
  4. Mites. Many people worry about getting scabies from a mangy dog. However, the scabies mite that lives on your dog is species specific. It might hop on you and cause some itchiness and discomfort, but usually the mites figure out that you are not a dog and leave you in search of a better host. However, dog mites can be a problem for immature, elderly or impaired immune systems.
  5. Fleas. We all know a dog can get fleas. Fleas are just as happy to bite you, as they are to bite your dog. The only difference is that your personal hygiene is better than your dog's, so the fleas are probably not living on you, but they are in your environment. The best way to keep from getting fleabites is to keep up to date with your monthly flea prevention. Vacuuming really well and on a regular basis will cut down on the number of flea eggs in the home. The less fleas that hatch, then less fleas there will be to chomp on you and your fuzzy friend.

These five issues, rabies, Leptospirosis, ringworm, mites and fleas are all things that can be transmitted from your dog to you. However, with diligent vaccination and a decent hygiene protocol, most of these can be of minimal risk. If you feel that you may have contracted an illness from your dog, call your doctor.


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