Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Healthy Pets

Font Size

Topic Overview

When you spend time around an animal—whether it's a pet, a farm animal, or a wild animal—there's a chance you can pick up an infection.

An infection you get from an animal is called a zoonosis (say "zoh-uh-NOH-sus"). Some infections can seem mild, but others can be quite serious. So it's a good idea to learn about your risks and how to protect yourself and other people. People who are most in need of protection are children under age 5, pregnant women, and people with weak immune systems.

Recommended Related to Pets

Snake Bite Safety and Prevention for Your Pet

If you frequently hike or otherwise enjoy the great outdoors with your pet, please take care to prevent painful encounters with snakes. Bites occur most often in between March and October when snakes are most active. According to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC), a snake bite is always considered an emergency-a venomous snake bite can be fatal if not treated immediately, and even a bite from a nonvenomous snake can be dangerous for your pets.

Read the Snake Bite Safety and Prevention for Your Pet article > >

Washing your hands well may be all you need to do to prevent infection from some animals. But with others, you need to do more than simple hand washing.

How can animals make you sick?

You can get a zoonosis from a mammal, a reptile, an amphibian, or a bird. It could be a pet, an animal at a farm or a petting zoo, or a wild animal that passes infection on to you.

It's not just touching an animal that can expose you to bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites. You can get infected when you:

  • Touch something that an animal has touched, such as bedding, a kennel, a stall, or your own clothing.
  • Touch feces or urine from an animal.
  • Are licked, scratched, or bitten by an animal.
  • Breath in dust that carries disease from an animal, as in a barnyard or a mouse nest.
  • Handle animal meat. Kitchen and food prep areas can be contaminated by raw meat, such as chicken, beef, or game.
  • Drink water from canals, creeks, or lakes. They might be contaminated with animal waste.
  • Eat food from infected animals, such as raw milk, cheese, or meat, or eat produce grown in contaminated water.

Before you travel, learn about common animal-borne infection risks where you're going. Then learn how to protect yourself from them.

How can you prevent infections from animals?

Keep your pet healthy

  • Keep up with your pet's vaccinations.
  • De-worm pets, especially puppies and kittens. They're a common source of worms. Talk to your veterinarian about what to use and how often.
  • House train or litter box train your pet. Clean up pet waste often.
  • Control and remove fleas and ticks. They can carry disease.
  • Visit your vet when your pet is ill or is acting differently than usual.

Wash and clean

  • Wash or change your pet's bedding regularly.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly after you handle any animal, including the fur or meat of dead animals. If you have no soap and water, use a gel hand sanitizer or alcohol-based hand wipe containing 60% to 90% ethyl alcohol or isopropanol.
  • Change and wash your clothes as soon as you come back home from handling animals at a petting zoo or farm.
  • Clean up carefully after an animal has vomited or had diarrhea. Wash or replace bedding. Use disinfectant to clean all hard surfaces that have been soiled.
  • In general, wash your hands before you eat and after you prepare food.
  • If there's a chance that a cat or mice walk on kitchen counters, clean counters often with a disinfectant.
  • Carefully clean up all rodent droppings you find indoors. Use rubber gloves and a spray disinfectant. Avoid stirring up and breathing in dust.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: May 08, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

Today on WebMD

Small dog large dog
Slideshow
boxer dog
Slideshow
 
Night stalking cat
Slideshow
puppy eating from bowl
Slideshow
 
Woman holding puppy
Article
Sad dog and guacamole
Slideshow
 
Siamese cat eating from bowl
Slideshow
cat on couch
Evaluator
 
Cat People vs Dog People Slideshow
Slideshow
Kitten playing
Quiz
 
Orange cat nuzzling woman
Slideshow
German shephard reading a book
Quiz