Zoonotic Diseases: Can Dogs or Cats Catch My Cold?

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Can you pass your illnesses to your pets? Though it doesn't happen often, sometimes you can. It's far more common for people to catch illnesses from their pets. Keep reading to learn more about zoonotic diseases (Illnesses that spread from animals to people, says the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and how you can help prevent them from spreading.

Can My Dog Catch My Cold?

Beagle puppy sleeping on bed with white sheets.It might relieve you to know that the viruses that cause the common cold in humans can't survive in dogs long enough to infect them, according to the Canine Journal. However, dogs can catch a version of the cold known as kennel cough (or Bordetella) from other dogs, but it is also possible for them to catch it from humans who have been in contact with infected dogs.

Pets and the Flu

Whether your dog or cat can catch the flu from you depends on the particular strain of influenza. According to The Telegraph, while most strains of flu can't be passed to pets, some strains such as H1N1 (or swine flu) can. As for the reverse, while there are forms of the flu that affect dogs and cats, you don't need to worry about catching these illnesses from your pets.

Zoonotic Diseases

It's more common for humans to catch diseases from their pets and other animals than vice versa. One of the best-known zoonotic diseases is rabies, which is passed from pets to people through bites and scratches. Zoonotic diseases aren't always passed directly from pets, but rather from the parasites they carry. These include hookworm, tapeworm, roundworm, tick-borne diseases and even bubonic plague, which is transmitted through fleas. Pets can also pass bacterial infections like campylobacteriosis, toxoplasmosis or MRSA to people.

Who Is Most Susceptible?

In humans and pets alike, the very young and the very old are the most vulnerable. Children younger than 5 and adults 65 and older are the most susceptible to zoonotic illnesses, says the CDC. Similarly, puppies and kittens, as well as senior dogs and cats, are also vulnerable. Immunocompromised individuals of each species are at a higher risk of infection.


Orange kitten on window sillThe CDC advises the following to help minimize the risk of transmitting diseases between pets and people:

  • Wash your hands whenever you're around animals, even when you haven't touched them, preferably with soap and water. Use hand sanitizer if soap and water aren't available. Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly every time you handle your pets' waste or food and water dishes.
  • When you've handled pets, avoid touching other people or your face until after you've washed your hands.
  • Thoroughly clean bedding, toys and other items, as well as surfaces that sick pets have touched.
  • Practice safe food handling procedures to avoid transmitting contaminants from your pets to your food.
  • Ensure that your family members, including your pets, are all up-to-date with their vaccinations. If your pets will be around other dogs or cats, such as at day care or play dates at the dog park, consider asking your veterinarian to administer a vaccine for Bordetella, which is not typically included in core pet vaccinations.
  • Talk to your vet about the best way to control fleas, ticks and other parasites for your pets.

Zoonotic diseases can be serious and the risk shouldn't be taken lightly. But the proper precautions can reduce the danger and protect all of the members of your household — those with two legs and those who walk on all fours.

Jean Marie Bauhaus

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