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8 Diseases You Didn’t Know You Could Spread to Your Dog

Who's the first one to come to your side when you're feeling sad or sick? It's probably your sweet pup with a comforting snuggle. As nice as that may be, avoid the kisses. Your dog could catch your bug.

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Keeping your pet disease free

First off, don’t worry yourself sick about making your dog sick; it’s actually pretty rare, says veterinarian Jeff Werber, DVM, Mars Petcare Spokesperson VCA Century Veterinary Group. Some research suggests there’ve only been 56 documented cases of zooanthroponosis (diseases transmitted from humans to animals) in the last three decades. Practicing good hygiene automatically reduces the risk of your pet (and you and your family) catching a bad bug. “Keep your hands clean, keep your toilet bowl covers down, and reduce contact when you are sick,” Dr. Werber says. Nonetheless, there are some diseases that are capable of spreading from humans to dogs. These are the ones you need to look out for.

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If you’re down for the count with a flu bug, your dog could come down with it, too. The symptoms will be similar; you’ll both feel achy and have respiratory issues such as coughing and sneezing, but there’s no special treatment your pup will need. Like humans with the flu, your pet will have to ride it out. “We have to support the body’s general systems with vitamins, good nutrition, hydration, etc.,” says Dr. Werber. In some cases, a trip to the vet hospital may be necessary for fluid support. Here are more silent signs your dog has dog flu.

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This common fungal infection is spread by direct contact with the skin, for instance, when your pup rubs his face on your infected arm. The fungus appears as a raised, red circular rash on the skin that’s sometimes flaky and itchy. Dogs can’t resist a good scratch, so you’ll need to treat the infection with anti-fungal medications. “If infected, both pets and people can spread ringworm on their own bodies by scratching the affected area, which then causes the fungal spores to spread to other areas on the body,” warns Dr. Werber. “Older pets with weaker immune systems might be even more susceptible,” he says.

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Yep, your dog can catch the mumps from you or your children, and he’ll feel lousy, with general discomfort, possibly a fever, and swelling of the salivary glands. “As with the flu, when it comes to mumps, we can only treat the symptoms, not the virus, so we support the patient, maybe provide medication for fever and/or pain,” says Dr. Werber. In addition, some symptoms may warrant a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory specifically for dogs.

Senior woman kissing her dog outside her home.RUBEN M RAMOS/Shutterstock


Salmonella is a bacterial infection that is transmitted through undercooked, raw, or contaminated food; it doesn’t have to be from meat or dairy, either. Contaminated fertilizer used on fruits and veggies can contain salmonella, and you can catch it if you don’t wash those foods well, warns Dr. Werber. This form of food poisoning is no picnic for humans or dogs. The symptoms are similar for both: diarrhea, low energy, vomiting, and sometimes a fever. It’s another reason to wash your hands well after using the bathroom. As Dr. Werber puts it: “Transmission can be via a fecal-oral route, which occurs through inadequate hand washing after defecation.” Usually, the bug will clear up on its own, but in some severe cases, you or your pup may need antibiotics. These are the toxic foods you need to keep away from your dog.

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You’re most likely to get this nasty intestinal parasite from drinking contaminated water, usually improperly treated or untreated water from a stream or lake. Stomach upset and diarrhea are the main symptoms. If you have giardia, be vigilant about washing your hands after using the toilet; if your dog licks your unclean hand, you could transfer the parasite to him. If you have a pup that likes to drink out of the toilet, that could spell trouble, too. “If a human in the house has a giardia infection and doesn’t flush or clean the toilet well, a ‘toilet water-drinking’ pet can pick up the infection,” says Dr. Werber. Your vet will take a stool sample to confirm and prescribe meds. You should be aware of these other common dog dangers in your own backyard.

African-american curly women hugging and kissing her pug dog while sitting on the bench. Them playful and happiness.Iryna Inshyna/Shutterstock

MRSA (staph)

Dr. Werber says it’s not common for a dog to get a staph infection from a person, but it is possible. Your dog can pick up MRSA by licking an infected wound on you. “If the dog has his own wound which he licks after licking you, he can then introduce the MRSA to himself,” says Dr. Werber. MRSA is resistant to antibiotics (it’s in the name, after all: Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). So if you have it, keep your dog at a distance, advises Dr. Werber.

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If a dog gets TB, it’s usually the M.bovis type that comes from drinking unpasteurized infected cow’s milk (or an infected dead animal). According to Dr. Werber, there are some scenarios in which your dog could get TB from you, like if your dog is close to your face as you cough, but it’s pretty rare. Other scenarios include your dog licking your hand right after you cough into it, or you have a trace of mucus on your face which your dog licks. “Infection of TB from a human is possible, however, but would be difficult to prove.” Don’t miss these 10 silent signs your healthy dog is actually sick.

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Lung cancer

Second-hand smoke is bad for people and dogs alike. According to Dr. Werber, dogs (and other pets) are actually more sensitive to the pollutants in second-hand smoke than humans, leaving them at risk for a variety of health issues and diseases such as weight gain and cancer. “We are mainly concerned about lung cancer. They may be more sensitive to the pollutants in secondhand smoke, and it could be more damaging to their health,” says Dr. Werber. “On their behalf, as well as for your own health and well-being, stop smoking!”

Lisa Marie Conklin
Lisa Marie Conklin is a Baltimore-based writer who writes regularly about pets and home improvement for Reader's Digest. Her work has also been published in The Healthy, HealthiNation, The Family Handyman, Taste of Home, and, among other outlets. She's also a certified personal trainer and walking coach for a local senior center. Follow her on Instagram @lisamariewrites4food and Twitter @cornish_conklin.