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Diseases You Can Get From Your Pets: Worms, Rabies, and More

Zoonotic Illnesses You Can Get from Your Pet continued...

Reduce the risk of cat scratch disease:

  • Do what you can to control fleas on your pets and in your home.
  • Avoid play that might lead to cat scratches or bites.
  • Don't allow your cat to lick any open wounds you have.
  • Wash cat bites and scratches right away with soap and water.
  • See your doctor if you develop an infection at the site of a cat bite or scratch.

Hookworm and roundworm

These are intestinal parasites routinely found in dogs and cats, particularly kittens and puppies. The worms’ eggs or larvae are passed from pets through stool. You can pick them up through your skin from walking barefoot or playing outside. A young child might also accidentally eat the worm eggs.

Hookworm infection can cause painful and itchy skin infections or abdominal symptoms. Roundworm infections may cause no symptoms but can cause nerve or eye damage in some people.

Reduce the risk of roundworms and hookworms:

  • Don't walk barefoot or garden in areas with bare hands.
  • Teach children to always wash their hands after touching a dog or cat
  • Have your kittens and puppies dewormed by the vet. 


Most human tapeworm infections arise from ingestion of contaminated meats. However, children can pick up tapeworm parasites from cats and dogs by accidentally swallowing a flea infected with tapeworm larvae. Tapeworm segments may show up in stool or around the anal area on a pet or human. These segments look a little like grains of rice.

Reduce the risk of tapeworms:

  • Control fleas on your pet and in the environment.
  • Seek treatment for your pet right away if you see signs of tapeworms.
  • Clean up your pet's feces in the yard and public areas right away.
  • Don't allow your child to play in areas that might be contaminated.
  • Have your child wash hands after playing with pets and being outdoors.


Not really a worm, ringworm is caused by a fungal infection within the top layer of the skin. It is very contagious and dogs, cats, horses, other animals, and humans can pass ringworm to humans. You can also get it from touching surfaces that an infected pet or person has touched. On skin, ringworm causes a ring-shaped, reddish rash that may be dry and scaly or wet and crusty. It may also be itchy.

  • On the scalp, it can cause temporary baldness.
  • On nails, it can cause thickening, discoloring, and brittle texture.
  • On feet, (called athlete's foot), it can cause scaliness and cracking, especially between the toes.

Ringworm is more likely if you have been sweating a lot or had a minor injury. Although it's difficult to prevent, ringworm responds well to self-care and treatment.

Reduce the risk of ringworm. If a pet or family member has ringworm:

  • Make sure he or she gets treated. For family members, apply an over-the-counter antifungal.
  • Consult your doctor if the lesions are extensive or do not improve rapidly with topical treatment.
  • Consult your veterinarian if skin lesions are found on your pets.
  • Daily wash sheets and pajamas of the infected family member.
  • Avoid direct contact until the ringworm is gone. And, keep animals off your bed.
  • Keep your skin clean and dry.

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