Can I Get Sick From My Dog?

Do you need to stay away? 😷

dog with a face mask on

If you’re a dog parent, you probably spend a lot of time trying to make your dog feel better whenever he’s sick. But have you ever wondered if you could catch an illness by being around your sick dog?

While there are some illnesses that can spread from dogs to people (and vice versa), your risk of getting sick is fortunately low if you generally keep your dog healthy and follow some simple safety tips.

The Dodo spoke to Dr. Erica Irish, a veterinarian at All Care Animal Hospital, to find out what you need to know about catching diseases from your dog and how to prevent it.

Can you get sick from a dog?

Yes, you can catch an illness from your dog.

“Intestinal parasites like roundworms and hookworms can be transmitted to other pets and to people,” Dr. Irish told The Dodo. “Rabies virus, which is a lethal illness, is transmitted from the bite of an unvaccinated animal (if previously exposed to the virus). Leptospirosis, a bacterial disease, can be passed through exposure to urine. According to AAHA [the American Animal Hospital Association], canine influenza could theoretically jump from dogs to people, but no cases have been documented.”

What is a zoonotic disease?

Types of illnesses that can transfer between animals and humans are called zoonotic diseases.

Here’s a list of dog diseases that can be transmitted to humans:

  • Hookworm
  • Tapeworm
  • Ringworm
  • Roundworm
  • Rabies
  • Salmonellosis
  • Tick-borne diseases
  • Brucellosis
  • Campylobacter
  • Capnocytophaga
  • Cryptosporidiosis
  • Giardia
  • Leptospirosis
  • Staphylococcus aureus
  • Yersinia pestis (plague)

COVID-19 is also technically a zoonotic disease, though there are very limited cases of dogs contracting it from their owners. The symptoms in dogs have not been as severe as those in humans.

“So far, there aren’t cases where transmission occurred from dog to human,” Dr. Irish said. “According to the CDC, the risk of this is very low.”

Even though it doesn’t seem to be as intense for dogs, if you have symptoms of COVID-19, you should try to stay away from your pup to minimize his exposure.

In general, symptoms of many of the zoonotic diseases listed above can be similar in dogs and people.

“Intestinal parasites can cause gastrointestinal signs like vomiting and diarrhea,” Dr. Irish said. “Upper respiratory illnesses like flu can cause coughing and sneezing, and leptospirosis can cause fever, lethargy and internal organ problems (e.g., kidneys).”

How can you get sick from your dog?

Depending on the type of illness, there can be a few ways for a disease to spread from your dog to you. These include:

  • Contact with your dog’s saliva
  • Contact with your dog’s poop
  • Bacteria or parasites from fleas and ticks on your dog

What is the risk of getting sick from your dog?

The good news is that the risk of getting sick from your dog is low, so it’s probably not something you’ll ever have to worry about.

“As long as your dog is up to date on vaccinations and preventive medications, your risk of exposure to illness is very low,” Dr. Irish said.

Some people might have a slightly higher risk of illness if they are immunocompromised. These groups of people include:

  • People who take drugs that suppress their immune systems
  • People with AIDS
  • The elderly
  • People undergoing chemotherapy treatment
  • Pregnant women

How to prevent catching an illness from your dog

“Routine vaccinations and flea/parasite prevention are the most important ways,” Dr. Irish said. “Diseases like rabies are much less likely if your dog is up to date on his/her vaccinations. Leptospirosis, rabies and canine influenza vaccines are available for dogs.”

As long as you keep your dog up to date on all of his vaccinations and vet appointments to keep him healthy, you’ll have a very low risk of contracting an illness from your pup.

You should also make sure to practice good hygiene when cleaning up after your dog.

“Intestinal parasites are transmitted through the fecal-oral route, so you should make sure to wash your hands thoroughly after handling and discarding fecal material or bodily fluids like urine and vomit,” Dr. Irish said.

You can follow these steps to prevent your dog from getting sick and spreading any illnesses to you:

  • Keep your dog up to date on vaccinations and vet checkups.
  • Keep your dog up to date on deworming medications.
  • Take your dog to the vet ASAP if you think he’s sick.
  • Wash your hands well when you clean up after your dog, come into contact with his saliva or touch his bowls or toys.
  • Wash any dog bites or scratches with soap and water (and seek medical attention when needed).
  • Bathe your dog regularly.
  • Wash your dog’s bed often.
  • Use flea and tick preventative medications.

And if you ever think your pup is sick, take him to the vet as soon as you see any symptoms.

“If your dog is suddenly ill, bring it to your vet’s attention ASAP,” Dr. Irish said.

Luckily, if you keep your pup healthy and practice good hygiene when cleaning up after him, your risk of getting sick from your dog is very low.