Pets

People really love their pets. Some people go so far as to think of them like children, kissing and cuddling them, sharing beds, baths, couches and even dinner plates with them. That kind of love is admirable, though perhaps a little unusual for some, while others spare no expense when it comes to the comfort and well-being of their animal companions. There’s nothing wrong with that if you think of pets as part of the family. Unfortunately, when you’re that close to your pets, not everything you share with them is positive, just like sharing with other family members.

You see, just like you can get sick after someone else in the household comes down with a cold, you could end up sharing more than love and kisses with your pet. Chances are, we all know one person who gets grossed out when a dog licks their face, and chances are we also know a person who laughs and doesn’t mind. While contact with pets more often than not is harmless, it is not impossible for them to pass certain diseases to their human companions. Here are a few examples of illnesses pets can transmit to humans.

5. Stomach Bugs

Stomach

It’s not uncommon to have an upset stomach. The aches, the fever, the vomiting, the diarrhea…it can be rather unpleasant. Did you know that you can catch it from your canine and feline companions? If you handle their feces at all (someone has to do it, right?), there’s a remote chance that you could pick up an infection. It comes from a bacterium in the feces called Campylobacter jejuni that is responsible for quite a number of human illnesses. Of course, you should wash your hands after handling poop, but also be mindful of anywhere your pets wipe their bums.

4. Cat Scratch Fever

Fever

Now, it’s pretty safe to say that most people don’t enjoy being clawed by their pets. At least with this particular illness, you have an idea of where the culprit lies. While it is generally transmitted to humans via cat scratch, it comes from the feces of fleas, which are transmitted to cat claws when they scratch themselves. Cat scratch fever is caused by a bacterium known as Bartonella. The infection will bring on fever and swell the lymph nodes. Make sure you keep your furry friends tick and flea free, as it will protect your health, too.

3. Parasites

Parasites

While they certainly qualify as parasites themselves, fleas are not the only ones that can cause trouble for you and your pets. Their feces contain other, even smaller parasites, aside from Bartonella. For example, Giardia duodenalis and Cryptosporidium are not uncommon. Much like the aforementioned Campylobacter jejuni and its stomach bug, you can expect to go through a bout of diarrhea if you get infected. Since this illness is also a matter of poop patrol, it’s critical to stress again the importance of washing your hands after disposing of pet waste, and generally keeping a clean yard or litter box.

Related: Warning Signs Your Body is Full of Parasites

2. Ringworm

Ringworm

You might think, based on the name, that ringworm is caused by worm parasites. It’s not. Actually, ringworm comes from a fungus, and it’s named more for its shape than its source. A ringworm infection leads to round patches of itchy skin, sometimes complete with ooze. Great, right? While cats are generally the carriers, in this case, dogs can also carry it. The infection can spread from the host directly, or indirectly through objects the host has touched. If you think a pet has ringworm (circular lesions, bald patches, redness), take it to a vet.

1. Meningitis

Meningitis

You’ve probably heard of meningitis, but you may not know that it’s possible to pick it up from your furry friends. Meningitis is caused by the bacteria Pasteurella multocida, and because it can be found in the mouths of cats and dogs, it can be transmitted via bites that break the skin. With well-behaved pets, this isn’t a significant threat, but there is another means of entry. Like most bacterial or viral infections, it can infect the body if it has access to a mucous membrane. That’s the mouth, nose, and eyes. Avoiding face licks will reduce your chances of infection.

To be fair, while it is possible to catch these illnesses from pets, the odds are very small. The odds get even smaller when you take proper hygiene into account, for both family and pets. Make sure people and animals have all their shots up to date. If your pets have fleas or ticks, eliminate the pest problem. When cleaning up after pets, consider wearing gloves and safety goggles, and wash your hands after you’ve finished. No need to love your pets any less, but a few precautions will keep everyone healthier and happier.

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