10 Diseases You Can Acquire From Popular Household Pets Which You May Not Know

PET QUOTEHousehold pets are great companions. They can greatly enhance the emotional health of their keepers. It’s wonderful to keep them, but one must have adequate knowledge about diseases that could be transmitted from these animals, so as to prevent possible acquisition of such diseases.

Here is a list of 10 diseases one can acquire from our popular household pets which may be oblivious to you:

1] Toxoplasmosis:

Toxoplasmosis is an infectious disease caused by the one-celled protozoan parasite Toxoplasma gondii. Although most individuals do not experience any symptoms, the disease can be very serious, and even fatal, in individuals with weakened immune systems and pregnant women. Cats, the primary carriers of the organism, become infected by eating rodents and birds infected with the organism.

In the United States, it is estimated that approximately 30% of cats have been infected by T. gondii. Humans become infected when they come into contact with the T. gondii eggs while cleaning a cat’s litterbox, gardening, or playing in a sandbox, for instance. Its serious consequences are limited to pregnant women and immunodeficient hosts. Congenital infections occur in about 1-5 per 1000 pregnancies of which 5-10% result in miscarriage and 8-10% result in serious brain and eye damage to the fetus. 10-13% of the babies will have visual handicaps.

2] Q Fever:

This disease is caused by Coxiella burnetii. Acute Q fever is characterized by two clinical presentations, atypical pneumonia and hepatitis. The primary mode of transmission is from inhalation of contaminated aerosols. It is estimated that only between 1 and 10 bacteria are necessary to cause infection. Q fever is distributed worldwide and is often transmitted from infectious aerosols in animal tissues or products and occasionally from unpasteurized milk. There have been several reports of transmission of Q fever from pets to humans, likely due to human handling of litter, birth products, cats, or dogs.

3] Cat-scratch disease:

The disease is caused by Bartonella hensalae. Cat-scratch disease is acquired by exposed to cats (scratches, bites, and possibly cat fleas). The disease in usually benign, characterized by chronic regional lymphadenopathy, i.e. swelling of lymph nodes. The infection is usually self-limited, but late in the course, in about 10% of patients, the node(s) may suppurate if they are not drained, preferably by needle aspiration.

4] Psittacosis:

Psittacosis is caused by Chlamydophila psittaci. It primarily affects birds, and infection has been documented in over 130 avian species. Infection is spread to humans by the respiratory route, to cause an ornithosis (infection of avian or animal origin) or psittacosis (infection acquired from parrots or related birds). Human-to-human transmission is very rare. Bird keepers are prone to acquiring this disease.

5] Toxocariasis:

This disease is caused by Toxocara canis and T. catti. These are roundworms of dogs and cats but they can infect humans and cause damage of the visceral organs. Humans get infected when they come into contact with the faeces of infected organism. Eggs from faeces of infected animals are swallowed by man and hatch in the intestine. The larvae penetrate the mucosa, enter the circulation and are carried to liver, lungs, eyes and other organs where they cause inflammatory necrosis. The most serious consequence of infection may be loss of sight if the worm localizes in the eye.

6] Brucellosis:

Brucellosis is primarily a disease of animals and it affects organs rich in the sugar erythritol (breast, uterus, epididymis, etc.). It is caused by Brucella species. The organism localizes in these animal organs and cause infertility, sterility, mastitis, abortion or resides as carriage. Humans in closed contact with infected animals are at risk of developing undulant fever. B. canis, which infects dogs, cause a mild suppurative febrile infection.

7] Tularemia:

Francisella tularensis is the causative agent of tularemia. Tularemia, also called rabbit fever, affects mammals, especially rodents, rabbits and hares, although it can also infect birds, sheep, and domestic animals, such as dogs, cats and hamsters. Man most commonly acquires tularemia via insect bites (ticks primarily, but also deer flies, mites, blackflies, or mosquitoes) or by handling infected animal tissues. Rabbit fever is characterized by a focal ulcer at the site of entry of the organisms. Ulceration occurs together with fever, chills, malaise, fatigue, and enlargement of the regional lymph nodes.

8] Respiratory Disease by Bordetella bronchoseptica

Bordetella bronchoseptica is a common respiratory pathogen in a wide range of mammalian species, including cats, dogs, horses, rabbits and swine. In humans, reports of respiratory disease caused by B. bronchoseptica remain rare but can cause broncho-pulmonary symptoms in severely immunosupressed individuals and children.

9] Localized abscess by Pasteurella multocida

P. multocida often exists as a commensal in the upper respiratory tracts of many livestock, poultry, and domestic pet species, especially cats and dogs. In fact, Pasteurella species are some of the most prevalent commensal bacteria present in domestic and wild animals worldwide. P multocida infection in humans is often associated with an animal bite, scratch, or lick. Symptoms of cellulitis usually begin after a very short incubation period, typically within 24 hours after been bitten or scratched. One may develop swelling, redness, warmth, and tenderness of the skin, sometimes with discharge of pus. Lymph nodes in the area of the infected skin may become enlarged and chills and fever can occur.

10] Ringworm

Ringworm is a common fungal infection of the skin. It is characterized by patches of rough, reddened skin. Raised eruptions usually form the circular pattern that gives the condition its name. The infection is highly contagious and is passed from person to person through direct skin contact or via contact with contaminated items such as toilet articles, clothing, and even by contaminated shower or pool surfaces. Animals can also be affected by ringworm and may transmit the condition to humans. Although cats are affected by ringworm more than dogs, dogs are also commonly affected.

Infected pets remain contagious for about three weeks if aggressive treatment is used. The ringworm will last longer and remain contagious for an extended period of time if only minimal measures are taken. Minimizing exposure to other dogs or cats and to your family members is recommended during the period of treatment.

The bottom line is that household pets must visit the vet doctor regularly to assess their health, and if infected with a disease causing organism, treated on time.



Catching ringworm from pets. MedicineNet. http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=82553

The Gale Encyclopaedia, 2nd Edition.

Pasteurella multocida infection. Medscape. http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/224920-overview.

Pets and Pasteurella Infections. American Academy of Pediatrics. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/from-insects-animals/Pages/Pets-and-Pasteurella-Infections.aspx

Principles and Practice of Clinical Bacteriology (2006), 2nd Edition. John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

Principles and Practice of Clinical Parasitology (2001), John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


About Seth T. Boateng

Mr. Seth T. Boateng is a dynamic writer, Bible teacher, medical research scientist, lecturer and clinical microbiologist. The central theme of his message is the holistic empowerment of God's children to live fulfilling lives.
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