As a veterinarian, skin issues are by far one of the most common problems we see in our patients. As an owner, you might be concerned about the possibility of contracting a skin infection from your pet. A skin disease that you can catch from your pet is termed a zoonotic skin infection. While there are many potential zoonotic skin infections, only a few are common enough to raise concern.
One potential zoonotic infection comes from mite infestations. Now it is important to realize that not all mites are contagious to people (demodex mites is a good example). Nonetheless, the Cheyletiella spp. Mites, or “walking dandruff”, and the Sarcoptes scabiei mite, or scabies, can cause an infection in people in the form of a rash after direct contact. Any symptoms in people tend to resolve when the infected pet is treated, or when contact with the infected pet ceases. Another common zoonotic skin infection is dermatophytosis, or ringworm. Ringworm is actually a fungal disease, and it can cause a circular, rash-like lesion that can be very itchy. Often the infection comes after direct contact with the pet, though the fungus can live in the environment (such as your household) and cause infection as well. There are a few other yeast infections, as well as bacterial and viral infections, that have the potential to be zoonotic. People with a compromised immune system tend to be more at risk at contracting these, as well as any other potential zoonotic disease. As a side note, it tends to be more common for people to spread bacterial infections, such as MRSA, to their pet, and not vice versa (known as reverse zoonotic disease).
Fleas tend to be one of the most common parasites we see. While fleas can definitely land on your skin and cause flea bites (which may be intense depending on the infestation of the pets and household), they don’t prefer humans as a host, and thus will not stay long on our skin. Again, once the flea infestation is treated, any symptoms present tend to resolve. It should also be noted that fleas can transmit other zoonotic diseases, such as cat scratch fever or tapeworms. One common misconception is that pets can give people lice. In reality, lice are species-specific, and they cannot cause infection in any other species other than the one they are currently living on. Therefore, you don’t have to blame your poor dog if your child comes home with head lice!
As mentioned earlier, there are other potential zoonotic skin infections out there that are not very common. However, it is important to bring your pet in any time a skin infection is a concern, and your veterinarian can discuss the potential risks to you and your family. We recommend going to Online Dogtor for certified emotional support animal can i use mine? They also provide tips for your pet’s health.