10 Diseases Kids Can Catch from their Pets


Kids tend to be more hands-on with pets than the adult members of the family, and to also have poorer hygiene habits. As a result, they’re more likely to end up on the receiving end of an illness that can be passed from animals to humans. These ten diseases can originate with the household pet, but affect the entire household.

  1. Cat Scratch Fever – Cats infected with Bartonella henselae bacteria are responsible for cat scratch fever, which causes swollen lymph nodes, fever, headaches and fatigue in humans.
  2. Ringworm – Despite the name, ringworm is actually a type of fungus that feeds on skin cells and hair of mammals. Cats and dogs are commonly affected in youth, and it can be transferred to humans if spores come into contact with skin.
  3. Plague – While it is possible for domestic cats to become infected with Yersinia pestis, the bacteria that causes bubonic plague, from prey rodents, it’s exceedingly rare.
  4. Tuberculosis – While dogs and cats are usually resistant to tuberculosis, African and Asian pet monkeys are a quite common source of exposure to humans. Once easily treated, newer strains of tuberculosis are treatment-resistant.
  5. Strep and StaphStreptococci and Staphylococci rarely cause symptoms in infected pets, but can still be passed on to humans. When the bacteria do cause symptoms in pets, they typically present with eye or skin infections.
  6. Salmonella – The same salmonella bacteria that causes us to carefully cook chicken and to scrub countertops religiously can also be passed between pets and their humans. Those with healthy immune systems usually only experience diarrhea and stomach cramps, but it can be life-threatening for infants and kids with compromised immune systems.
  7. B-Virus – Macaque monkeys, of which several species are sold as pets, often carry a virus called herpesvirus simiae, or B-virus. Up to 90% of adult macaques are infected; the disease is mild or altogether asymptomatic in monkeys. However, a bite from an infected pet monkey can lead to meningoencephalitis.
  8. Rabies – There’s no cause for concern if your pet’s vaccinations are up to date, but a newly-taken-in stray or rescue that carries rabies can infect any mammal it encounters, including humans.
  9. Toxoplasmosis – The same organism that causes obstetricians to discourage pregnant women from cleaning a cat’s litter box can also infect children. While it typically causes no overt signs of disease, in some rare cases, headache, fever, sore throat and muscle pain can occur.
  10. Giardia – A single-celled organism known as Giardia lamblia that lives in the intestines of birds and mammals alike is the most common non-bacterial cause of diarrhea in American humans, according to doctors. Children are more likely to contract giardia than adults.

While some of these diseases are quite rare, others are relatively common. Making sure that children wash their hands after handling a pet or its waste is absolutely the most effective method for preventing these illnesses.


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