What Can I Catch from My Dog?

Understanding zoonotic diseases and their impact on pet owners

Anyone who’s watched their dog go through a bout of diarrhea or the sniffles has probably wondered if they, too, were at risk of getting sick. So, can you get sick from your dog?

The answer is yes. There are a number of diseases you can contract from your pet, and they are known broadly as zoonotic diseases. The word “zoonotic” is used to designate any disease that is transmitted from animals to humans. The best known and most feared example of a zoonotic disease is rabies. Other common zoonotic diseases in dogs include:

Yikes! Is my dog really that risky?
Now for the good news: although it’s possible to catch a zoonotic disease that’s been bothering your pup, it’s not likely. That being said, your chance of contracting a zoonotic illness does increase if you have a compromised immune system due to a pre-existing disease or medical condition. Examples include:

  • Persons infected with HIV or suffering from AIDS
  • Pregnant women
  • Patients being treated with chemotherapy or radiation therapy
  • Elderly people
  • People with chronic diseases or congenital immune system deficiency
  • People who have received organ/bone marrow transplants

If I’m at a higher risk, should I give my dog away?
No! It just means that you need to be extra cautious around your pet. Besides, there are a lot of studies out there that have proven that the benefits of having a pet, especially if suffering from chronic illness, are immeasurable. In fact, sometimes doctors actually recommend pets for their sick patients.

Several measures can be taken to ensure that you remain safe, including regularly monitoring your dog for signs of illness, basic hygienic practices such as washing your hands after handling your pet, and most importantly, avoiding direct contact with your dog’s urine or feces. Make sure you use that pooper-scooper! Read below for more tips to keep yourself safe from zoonotic diseases.


The best way to reduce or eliminated your risk of contracting zoonotic diseases from your dog is simple and boils down to hygiene and common sense. Here are some more specific suggestions:

  • Make sure illness in your pet is addressed. Don’t put off visits to the vet if your dog is showing signs of illness [link]. If your dog IS sick, wash your hands after handling him or her.
  • Keep your dog clean! Bathe him or her regularly; doing so will allow you to more closely examine your pooch for signs of illness, especially skin lesions and rashes.
  • De-worm your pup. Getting your dog on heartworm preventative isn’t only to prevent heartworm alone. Broad-spectrum de-wormers can also prevent roundworms and other parasites.
  • Take care of your dog’s poop while out on a walk and dispose of it all promptly.
  • Give your pets separate water dishes and bowls.
  • Wash pet bedding often.
  • Use flea and tick preventatives regularly.

If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian – they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.