Learn more about dog-related diseases. Although dogs can pass germs to people, you are not likely to get sick from touching or owning dogs. To best protect yourself from getting sick, thoroughly wash your hands with running water and soap after contact with dogs, dog saliva, or dog feces (stool).
Dogs can carry a variety of germs that can make people sick. Some of these germs are common and some are rare.
Campylobacter Infection (campylobacteriosis): A bacterial disease associated with dogs, cats, and farm animals. Sometimes, yes, animals can spread Campylobacter to humans. Most people get campylobacteriosis from contaminated food. However, animals can have Campylobacter in their feces (stool). If people touch contaminated feces, they can get sick. Animals that may carry Campylobacter in their feces include farm animals, cats, and dogs. Animals do not have to be ill to pass Campylobacter to humans. Campylobacter usually causes a mild to severe infection of the gastrointestinal system, including watery or bloody diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps, nausea, and vomiting. A rare complication of Campylobacter infection is Guillain-Barre syndrome, a nervous system disease that occurs approximately 2 weeks after the initial illness develops.
Cryptosporidium Infection (cryptosporidiosis): A parasitic disease associated with dogs, especially puppies, cats, and farm animals. Most people get Cryptosporidium infection from contaminated food and water. However, sometimes animals (including farm animals, cats, and dogs) carry this parasite in their feces (stool) and pass it to people. Animals do not have to be ill to pass Cryptosporidium to humans. Cryptosporidium infection (cryptosporidiosis) (krip-toe-spo-rid-ee-oh-sis) is a parasitic disease caused by Cryptosporidium parvum. It usually causes a mild to severe infection of the gastrointestinal system, including watery diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps, nausea, and vomiting.
Dipylidium Infection (tapeworm): A parasitic disease associated with dogs, cats and fleas.
By swallowing a flea infected with a tapeworm larvae. A dog or cat may swallow a flea while self-grooming. Once the flea is digested inside the dog or cat, the larval tapeworm is free to develop into an adult tapeworm.
For a person to become infected with Dipylidium, he or she must accidentally swallow an infected flea. Most reported cases involve children. The risk of infection with this tapeworm in humans is low. The most effective way to prevent infections in pets and humans is through flea control.
Giardia Infection (giardiasis): A parasitic disease associated with various animals, including dogs and their environment (including water).
Giardiasis (GEE-are-DYE-uh-sis) is a diarrheal illness caused by a one-celled, microscopic parasite, Giardia intestinalis (also known as Giardia lamblia). Once an animal or person has been infected with Giardia intestinalis, the parasite lives in the intestine and is passed in the stool. Because the parasite is protected by an outer shell, it can survive outside the body and in the environment for long periods of time.
During the past 2 decades, Giardiainfection has become recognized as one of the most common causes of waterborne disease (found in both drinking and recreational water) in humans in the United States . Giardia are found worldwide and within every region of the United States.
The Giardia parasite lives in the intestine of infected humans or animals. Millions of germs can be released in a bowel movement from an infected human or animal. Giardia is found in soil, food, water, or surfaces that have been contaminated with the feces from infected humans or animals. You can become infected after accidentally swallowing the parasite; you cannot become infected through contact with blood. Giardia can be spread by:
- Accidentally putting something into your mouth or swallowing something that has come into contact with feces of a person or animal infected with Giardia.
- Swallowing recreational water contaminated with Giardia. Recreational water includes water in swimming pools, hot tubs, jacuzzis, fountains, lakes, rivers, springs, ponds, or streams that can be contaminated with sewage or feces from humans or animals.
- Eating uncooked food contaminated with Giardia.
- Accidentally swallowing Giardia picked up from surfaces (such as bathroom fixtures, changing tables, diaper pails, or toys) contaminated with feces from an infected person.
Giardia infection can be very contagious. Follow these guidelines to avoid spreading giardiasis to others:
- Wash your hands with soap and water after using the toilet, changing diapers, and before eating or preparing food.
- Do not swim in recreational water (pools, hot tubs, lakes or rivers, the ocean, etc.) if you have Giardia and for at least 2 weeks after diarrhea stops. You can pass Giardia in your stool and contaminate water for several weeks after your symptoms have ended. This has resulted in outbreaks of Giardia among recreational water users.
- Avoid fecal exposure during sexual activity.
Hookworm Infection: A parasitic disease associated with dogs and cats and their environment.
Hookworm infection is a disease caused by several species of parasites. The symptoms of animal hookworm infection in people depend on how people get the infection. Early stages of animal hookworms, the larvae, can infect people and travel through different parts of the human body. This is called larva migrans (LAR-va MIGH-granz). People can also get painful and itchy skin infections when animal hookworm larvae move through their skin. If a person accidentally eats animal hookworm eggs, then the larvae that hatch out of the eggs can reach the intestine and cause bleeding, inflammation (swelling), and abdominal pain.
Puppies and kittens are especially likely to have hookworm infections. Animals that are infected pass hookworm eggs in their stools. The eggs can hatch into larvae, and both eggs and larvae may be found in dirt where animals have been. Eggs or larvae can get into your body when you accidentally eat or have direct contact with contaminated dirt. For example, this can happen if a child is walking barefoot or playing in an area where dogs or cats have been (especially puppies or kittens). How do I reduce my risk of getting hookworm?
- Do not walk barefoot or contact the soil with bare hands in areas where hookworm is common or there is likely to be feces (stool) in the soil or sand.
- Dogs and cats should be dewormed by your veterinarian.
Leishmania Infection (leishmaniasis): A parasitic disease associated with dogs and sand flies outside the United States.
Leptospira Infection (leptospirosis): A bacterial disease associated with wild and domestic animals, including dogs. Leptospirosis is a disease is caused by spiral shaped bacteria called leptospires. It occurs worldwide and can affect humans as well as many wild and domestic animals, including dogs and cats. The disease can be serious for both humans and animals. In people, the symptoms are often like the flu, but sometimes leptospirosis can develop into a more severe, life-threatening illness with infections in the kidney, liver, brain, lung, and heart.
Lyme Disease: A bacterial disease that can affect dogs and ticks. People get Lyme disease when they are bitten by ticks carrying B. burgdorferi. Ticks that carry Lyme disease are very small and can be hard to see. These tiny ticks bite mice infected with Lyme disease and then bite people or other animals, such as dogs and horses, passing the disease to them.
Lyme disease is a bacterial disease caused by Borrelia burgdorferi (boar-ELL-ee-uh burg-dorf-ERR-eye). Within 1 to 2 weeks of being infected, people may have a “bull’s-eye” rash with fever, headache, and muscle or joint pain. Some people have Lyme disease and do not have any early symptoms. Other people have a fever and other “flu-like” symptoms without a rash.
After several days or weeks, the bacteria may spread throughout the body of an infected person. These people can get symptoms such as rashes in other parts of the body, pain that seems to move from joint to joint, and signs of inflammation of the heart or nerves. If the disease is not treated, a few patients can get additional symptoms, such as swelling and pain in major joints or mental changes, months after getting infected.
Q Fever (Coxiella burnetii): A bacterial disease occasionally associated with dogs. Cattle, sheep, and goats are the primary reservoirs of C. burnetii. Infection has been noted in a wide variety of other animals, including other species of livestock and in domesticated pets.
Rabies: A viral disease associated with various animals, including dogs.
Ringworm: A fungal disease associated with dogs.
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever: A bacterial disease associated with dogs and ticks. People get this disease when they are bitten by a tick that is carrying the bacterium R. rickettsia. Because ticks on dogs can be infected with R. rickettsii, dogs and people can get Rocky Mountain spotted fever from the same ticks. These ticks can also bite other animals and pass Rocky Mountain spotted fever to them. When you remove ticks from any animal, the crushed tick or its parts can also pass this disease through any cuts or scrapes on your skin.
Rocky Mountain spotted fever is a disease caused by the bacterium Rickettsia rickettsii (rick-ETT-cee-uh rick-ETT-cee-eye), which is carried by ticks. People usually start having fevers and feeling nauseous about a week after being bitten by a tick, although some people do not remember having had a tick bite. A few days after the fever begins, people who have Rocky Mountain spotted fever often have a rash, usually on their arms or ankles. They also may have pain in their joints, stomach pain, and diarrhea. Sometimes people with this disease are very sick and have to go to the hospital.
Roundworm: See Toxocara infection.
Salmonella Infection (salmonellosis): A bacterial disease associated with various animals including dogs. Usually, people get salmonellosis by eating contaminated food, such as chicken or eggs. However, animals can carry Salmonella and pass it in their feces (stool). Therefore, people can also get salmonellosis if they do not wash their hands after touching the feces of animals. Salmonellosis (sal-mohn-el-OH-sis) is a bacterial disease caused by the bacterium Salmonella. Many different kinds of Salmonella can make people sick. Most people have diarrhea, fever, and stomach pain that start 1 to 3 days after they get infected. These symptoms usually go away after 1 week. Sometimes, people have to see a doctor or go to the hospital because the diarrhea is severe or the infection has affected other organs.
Toxocara Infection (toxocariasis, roundworm): A parasitic disease associated with dogs and cats and their environment.