According to the Humane Society, there are more than 171 million dogs and cats owned as pets in the United States. That number equates to approximately one dog or cat for every other American and many households have more than one type of animal. Birds, ferrets, and fish also make great pets. Studies have also shown that domesticated animals are good for humans. They provided companionship and contribute to the overall mental health of both children and adults. But what happens when people are around too many animals? Can your pet actually make you sick? The simple answer is: yes, it is possible for your pet to make you sick. There are, however, a few caveats.
Diseases that are transmitted from animals to people are called zoonoses. These diseases are commonly transmitted through contact with your pet’s stool or saliva. Dogs, for instance, carry a germ called Campylobacter in their stool and can cause diarrhea in humans. In extreme cases, rabies can also be transferred from animals to humans and is not isolated to the canine species. Dogs can also carry other germs that can transmit leptospirosis, tapeworm, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
Cats are by far the most popular pet in the United States. There are about 93 million cats owned as pets in contrast to 77 million pet dogs. Cats carry their own set of germs that can lead to cat scratch fever, rabies, and ringworm. Many of the diseases that affect humans can be contracted through contact with many different animals.
Birds are popular because they come in many shapes, sizes, and feature beautifully colored plumes. However, care must also be exercise with bird species as they can transmit a nasty fungal disease known as cryptococcosis as well as salmonella.
If you are interested in, or have, a wild animal as a pet, you may wish to reconsider. Feral animals are just that: wild and should never be kept as pets. Sanctuaries all over the nation are suffering from overcrowding because someone though having a tiger as a pet would be a good idea. In these situations, the animals suffer the most. In addition, wild animal owners also expose themselves to a wide range of diseases including rabies, giardia, brucella, and in very rare cases; the plague.
While occurrences of zoonose transmission are rare, the people most at risk are individuals with compromised immune systems. People suffering from the effects of HIV/AIDS or chemotherapy should be very careful when deciding to keep a pet. Avoiding contact with animal stool and saliva is a step against catching germs from your furry friend. Of course, the first line of defense is often your best: if you have a pet, wash your hands regularly.