Can dogs get sick from humans?
There are so many potential illnesses we understandably worry that our pets might catch.
- Can dogs get the flu from humans?
- Can dogs get colds from humans?
- Can dogs get pneumonia from humans?
- Can a dog catch a stomach virus from a human?
- Can dogs catch human viruses at all?
Many dog owners have these types of questions. After all, we love our pets and want them to be as healthy as possible.
We all know we should try to limit our contact with other humans when we’re sick, but what about our canine friends?
Dogs can be a great source of comfort when we’re not feeling our best, but we don’t want to put them at risk.
To help you answer these questions and keep your dog safe and healthy, we’ve put together this handy guide.
Let’s start by looking at how diseases spread.
How Is Disease Transmitted?
There are lots of ways that diseases can be transmitted:
- Direct contact: pathogen transfers during physical contact between an infected person and an uninfected person.
- Indirect contact: pathogen transfers between people via a contaminated surface.
- Airborne transmission: pathogen is in the air on droplets or dust particles and enters the body through the eyes, nose, or mouth.
- Fecal-oral transmission: pathogen exits the body through feces, then infects another person through direct or indirect contact with the feces.
- Sexual transmission: pathogen is transferred during sexual contact.
- Vector transmission: pathogen is transferred from one species to another so that it can complete its life cycle.
- Blood to blood transmission: pathogen is directly transferred from one person’s blood to another’s.
- Unclean wound: pathogen exists in nature and enters the body through an unclean and uncovered wound.
- Vertical transmission: pathogen is transferred from mother to her child during birth or breastfeeding.
Can Dogs Get Human Viruses and Bacteria?
Of course, not all of these modes of transmission could apply to humans transmitting diseases to their dogs.
However, several of them could theoretically allow pathogens to transfer from a human to a dog, such as direct contact, indirect contact, airborne transmission, and fecal-oral transmission.
Can Dogs Get Sick From Humans?
Now we know that pathogens could transfer from humans to dogs, but would human pathogens really survive in a dog, let alone get the dog sick?
Can dogs get sick from humans in reality, not just in theory?
The short answer is yes, dogs can get sick from humans, but that’s not the whole story.
For one, there are some illnesses that both humans and dogs can contract, but not from each other.
Furthermore, not every human pathogen could survive in a dog and dogs are more resistant to some diseases than humans are.
Certain diseases can’t be spread from humans to dogs at all, and some, but not all, strains of a particular disease can’t infect dogs.
This means that while human to dog disease transmission is possible, it is relatively rare.
Now let’s look at some examples to find out more.
Can Dogs Get Sick From Humans? – Diseases You Can Give Your Dog
Mumps is a viral disease that is highly contagious between humans, but can also be transmitted to dogs.
Symptoms in dogs include fever, loss of appetite, and swelling of the salivary glands.
However, most species of parasites are species specific and can’t be transmitted.
Despite the name, ringworm is a fungal infection, not a parasite, and is one of the more easily transferable diseases from humans to dogs.
Fortunately, it’s also a very mild illness, causing an itchy rash and, in the case of dogs, hair loss. Ringworm can be easily treated with topical medication.
Most of us know that we can get salmonella from raw chicken or eggs, but it can also be passed between people and from humans to dogs in a variety of other ways, including fecal-oral transmission, direct contact, and indirect contact.
Dogs tend to be more resistant to salmonella than humans are, but their tendency to drink from toilets increases their odds of exposure.
Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) is a particular strain of Staphylococcus aureu (also known as Staph) that is resistant to a number of varieties of antibiotics. Humans are most likely to contract this type of Staph infection in a healthcare setting, then pass it on to their pet.
MRSA is treated using antibiotics that it is not resistant to.
Dogs most commonly contract Giardia and other protozoans from contaminated water or contact with infected animals, but they can also get it from humans, most commonly from indirect fecal-oral transmission.
Symptoms include diarrhea and weight loss, but after diagnosis, your vet can easily treat Giardia with oral medication.
For one last example, let’s talk about the influenza virus.
In recent years, we’ve seen an increasing number of examples of strains of the flu transmitting across species, such as bird flu and swine flu.
There are even some documented cases of dogs contracting swine flu from humans.
However, other strains of the flu do not appear to be capable of being passed from humans to animals, so the risk of your dog catching the flu from you is very, very low.
Before we move on, please note that these are just a few examples of diseases that you can pass to your dog, not an exhaustive list. There are many, many other diseases that your dog can contract from you that aren’t mentioned here.
But now let’s talk about a few diseases that you can’t give your dog – at least not yet.
Can Dogs Get Sick From Humans? – Diseases You Can’t Give Your Dog
While your dog can catch certain strains of the flu from you, he can’t, however, catch your cold.
The human cold virus and the dog cold virus are different, and the human cold virus cannot survive in a dog and vice versa.
While both humans and dogs are susceptible to lyme disease, we can’t catch it from one another, even within the same species. Lyme disease must be in a tick to spread.
Speaking of parasites like ticks, most parasites are specific to a species or otherwise have requirements from their host that make human parasites, like lice, unable to live on dogs.
However, it should be noted that viruses and bacteria are constantly evolving and may adapt to be able to survive inside dogs or to be able to be transferred from humans to dogs.
Just look at the flu for an example of this.
It’s always better to err towards the side of caution when it comes to avoiding disease transmission.
So we finally know the answer to the question, “Can dogs get sick from humans?”
While it is true that we can infect our canine pals, there are plenty of ways to prevent your dog – and yourself – from getting sick.
For one, keep your dog away from sick people and animals, and try to avoid them yourself as much as possible.
Keep your dog’s environment clean. Wash their food and water dishes, toys, and bedding regularly to kill any bacteria, viruses, or parasites. Wash your hands before and after interacting with your dog and before handling their food.
Make sure your dog can’t eat out of the trash and keep them away from dishes and cooking utensils that came into contact with raw meat, eggs, and other items that can carry pathogens.
Don’t allow your dog to drink unclean water, such as water from puddles, rivers, or lakes. Keep the lid of the toilet down if your dog is prone to drinking out of it.
Clean and cover any open wounds that your dog sustains and don’t allow your dog to swim with an open wound.
Use flea, tick, and other parasite preventatives consistently to keep your dog protected from both parasites and the diseases that they can carry.
Finally, keep both yourself and your dog up to date with your vaccination schedules. Vaccinations are essential for building immunity to disease, and protect the vaccinated in situations where coming in contact with a pathogen is unavoidable.
References & Further Reading
- Ballweber, L.R. et al. “Giardiasis in dogs and cats: update on epidemiology and public health significance.” Trends in Parasitology, 2010.
- Checchi, F. “Principles of infectious disease transmission.” World Health Organization, 2009.
- Marx, M.B. “Parasites, pets, and people.” Primary Care, 1991.
- Morse, E.V. & M.A. Duncan. “Canine salmonellosis: prevalence, epizootiology, signs, and public health significance.” Journal of the American Veterinary Association, 1975.
- Parrish, C.R., P.R. Murcia, & E.C. Holmes. “Influenza Virus Reservoirs and Intermediate Hosts: Dogs, Horses, and New Possibilities for Influenza Virus Exposure of Humans.” Journal of Virology, 2014.
- Schroeder, H. & W.L. Barry. “Salivary gland necrosis in dogs: a retrospective study of 19 cases.” Journal of Small Animal Practice, 2008.
- Van Duijkeren, E. et al. “Human-to-Dog Transmission of Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus.” Emerging Infectious Diseases, 2005.
- Wagner, R. & N. Stallmeister. “Cheyletiella dermatitis in humans, dogs and cats.” British Journal of Dermatology, 2008.
- Wright, A.I. “Ringworm in dogs and cats.” Journal of Small Animal Practice, 1989.
The Labrador Site Founder
Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.
She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program
Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website