Pet diseases: Can your child catch them

We know that kids are susceptible to germs, but did you ever wonder if they can catch your pet’s illness?


Is there anything my child can “catch” from family pets?

The Pediatrician:

Very little, actually. Most germs are fairly species specific. Bites can get infected, but human bites are much more dangerous. Occasional parasites, such as larvae cutaneous migrans, can be transmitted. Also, dogs can get strep throat, and give it back if kissed.

The only significant diseases from mammals are:

  1. Rabies. If a raccoon or bat bites your pet, the pet can acquire rabies and they can in turn bite your child. Any animal bite must have the biting animal observed for behavioral changes for several weeks.
  2. Cat scratch disease. Yes, this is a real thing. Cat scratch disease which causes massive lymph node swelling and tiredness and fevers of unknown origin for months should really be called “kitten scratch fever” since it is mainly transmitted by cats less than 1 year old. It is transmitted by claw scratches, not by biting. This disease is not usually fatal, but it is lengthy, uncomfortable and does not cure easily — even with antibiotics.
  3. Salmonella. Reptiles are more dangerous since they normally carry the salmonella bacteria in their mouth and skin. Always make sure kids wash their hands thoroughly (at least 15 seconds of running water) after playing with them, and that they never lick them.
  4. Psittacosis. Birds will occasionally transmit psittacosis (a flu-like syndrome) through handling their feces. Again, hand washing should prevent infection.

When in doubt, always contact your doctor. Keeping up-to-date on your pets vaccinations will also help to keep your pets healthy.


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