Preventing zoonotic diseases like Lyme disease, salmonella, E.coli from pets

Preventing zoonotic diseases like Lyme disease, salmonella, E.coli from petsZoonotic diseases are those transferred from animals to humans, including Lyme disease, salmonella, and E. coli. Zoonotic diseases are caused by bacteria, viruses, parasites or fungus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that six out of 10 infectious diseases found in human result from animals.

As humans we interact with animals on a daily basis. Not only do we interact with animals that are our pets, but we are in contact with livestock and even wild or zoo animals as well.


Although many zoonotic diseases can be treated, many of them pose serious health complications and can even be fatal. Some more dangerous zoonotic diseases include Lyme disease, West Nile virus, dengue, malaria, chikungunya, salmonella and E. coli.

New study suggests ways to avoid catching diseases from pets

New study suggests ways to avoid catching diseases from petsA new study looked at ways to avoid catching diseases from your pets – especially if you have a weakened immune system, which increases your risk. Ohio State University compiled information from 500 studies worldwide in order to develop recommendations that families could use to help reduce their risk of contracting a disease from their pets.

Each pet carries its own unique risk of zoonotic diseases, so researchers suggest speaking to your doctor prior to purchasing a pet, especially if your household has infants, a pregnant women, seniors, or anyone with a weakened immune system as they are at highest risk of contracting a disease.

Researcher at the university, Jason Stull, Ph.D., said, “It’s all about safe pet ownership. There are very few situations in which a person couldn’t or shouldn’t have some type of pet if they wish. It’s about matching the right species with the right person and taking the appropriate precautions.”

“Surveys suggest that most veterinarians and physicians do not regularly discuss zoonotic disease risks with clients, patients or each other. That needs to change if we are going to effectively reduce pet-associated diseases,” explained Stull.

Stull suggests that if doctors are unaware of potential risks that animals can pose, they should consult a veterinarian, who can provide additional information.

Pets can transfer disease numerous ways, including feces, saliva and skin. For example, reptile pets carry salmonella in their digestive tract, so after touching these pets it’s important to thoroughly wash your hands.

Recommendations offered by the study include:

  • Wearing protective gloves to clean aquariums and cages and remove feces
  • Proper handwashing after pet contact
  • Discouraging pets from face licking
  • Covering playground boxes when not in use
  • Avoiding contact with higher risk animals, such as reptiles, amphibians, and exotic animals
  • Regular cleaning and disinfection of animal cages, feeding areas and bedding
  • Locating litter boxes away from areas where eating and food prep occur
  • Waiting to acquire a new pet until immune status has improved
  • Regularly scheduling veterinary visits for all pets

Stull concluded, “Pets do so much good for people in terms of mental, physical and emotional health. But at the same time, they can transmit diseases to us. Physicians, veterinarians and the public have to work together to make sure the benefits outweigh the risks.”

Diseases you can get from your pets

Here are the common bacteria, viruses and parasites that can be contracted from animals.


  • Diseases you can get from your petsCampylobacter: from cats and dogs and contaminated food and water. Can be carried in animal feces.
  • Psittacosis: caused by inhalation of bird feces and urine.
  • Bartonella henselae: also known as “cat scratch disease”; 40 percent of cats will carry the bacteria within their life.
  • Salmonella: found in reptiles.


  • Worms: coming in contact with animal feces or dirt and sand where animal feces have been.
  • Toxoplasmosis: coming in contact with cat feces.


  • Rabies: pets can contract rabies from wild animals.

Precautions when adopting or buying a pet

Precautions when adopting or buying a petIf you’re interested in buying a pet to bring into your family home, there are some precautions you should keep in mind to help protect you and your family from illness. For starters, you want to begin with the breeder or shelter where the pet is coming from. You want to ensure they are reputable and that their pets have received all their vaccinations.

The moment you purchase your pet you will want to bring them to a veterinarian to get a thorough exam and to create a vaccination and check-up schedule.

You will also want to feed your pet healthy food options and ensure the water they drink is clean. It’s wise to avoid feeding your pet raw meat, which can lead to infection, and do not let them drink from toilets.

On the other hand, if you have been diagnosed with an illness or are receiving treatment for a health condition, there are other aspects to consider as well. For example, if you’ve just been diagnosed, it is best not to purchase a pet because your immune system may be compromised. If you already own a pet when you develop an illness, there are special considerations as well.

Always remember to wash your hands when coming in contact with the pet, and avoid picking up its feces or cleaning up after it. Ensure litter boxes and bedding are kept clean and not in areas such as the bedroom or kitchen. Lastly, keep up-to-date with vaccinations to ensure your pet doesn’t have the chance to contract something along the way, and to be sure they are always protected.

Simple tips to avoid infections from pets

Here are some tips to further reduce your risk of contracting a disease from your beloved pet(s).

  • Simple tips to avoid infections from petsAvoid getting bitten, scratched or having them lick you. In the event you do become bit or scratched, clean the area immediately and monitor it for swelling or redness. Socializing your pets will reduce the risk of them biting or scratching others.
  • Be mindful of their feces. Do not allow feces or urine to linger in the home or outdoors. Never directly touch feces or urine and wash your hands immediately. Ensure litter boxes are always clean and that your pet is vaccinated to eliminate bacteria from lingering in their feces.
  • Use flea and tick prevention medications and check for fleas and ticks. If spotted, remove immediately and wash your hands.

With these tips and the many others listed in this article you can ensure that you and your pet are protected against disease. Pets are meant to keep us company, be our friends and to be loved, not to spread illness. Therefore, if you love your pet, you’ll take the necessary precautions so that the both of you can continue to live a healthy life.

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Author Bio

Emily Lunardo studied medical sociology at York University with a strong focus on the social determinants of health and mental illness. She is a registered Zumba instructor, as well as a Canfit Pro trainer, who teaches fitness classes on a weekly basis. Emily practices healthy habits in her own life as well as helps others with their own personal health goals. Emily joined Bel Marra Health as a health writer in 2013.