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Diseases you can catch from your pet

By Dr HELEN BURNS BVSc (Hons) | Dated May 21, 2018

What are they and how can you avoid them?

While most of us may get through life never needing to think about zoonoses (diseases you can catch from and animal), it’s worth being aware that they do exist. Please note that this list is not comprehensive, and is intended to give you some basic background information on these diseases. For further information it would be best to contact your doctor.


This is actually not a worm but is a fungal disease that is picked up by direct contact with affected animals or with hair that has been shed from an infected animal. Children and young animals are most susceptible. Because  it is not a worm, regular worming does not protect your pet from ringworm. At Gordon Vet, we most commonly see ringworm in little rescue kittens.


Roundworms, hookworms and tapeworms, which are all intestinal parasites, may cause serious infection in people, especially children. People may become infected by contact with faeces from an infected animal or from contaminated soil. Note that threadworm (pinworm), which is commonly found in children, is not caught from animals.

Cat scratch disease

This is a bacterial infection caused by Bartonella sp. It is carried by fleas, and can be transmitted to people via a bite or scratch from an infected cat. It often causes swollen, painful lymph nodes near  where the person was bitten or scratched.


This is an infection with a protozoal organism, which may present a serious danger to pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems. Cats usually shed the organism in their faeces for a short time only once in their life. People more commonly become infected by handling raw meat or eating under cooked meat or unwashed vegetables.


Psittacosis is an uncommon bacterial infection that can be transmitted from birds to people. It is usually caught from inhaling the bacteria Chalmydia psittaci from the bird’s secretions or droppings.  People can also become infected by mouth-to-beak contact (kissing) with birds or by handling the feathers of infected birds. Birds most frequently associated with passing on Psittacosis are parrots, cockatiels and poultry. Affected people usually develop flu like symptoms.


So what can you do to reduce the risk of contracting a zoonosis?

Most importantly, keep your pet healthy! Ensure that their intestinal worming and parasite control is always up to date, and that they have their annual check-up and vaccination.

Practise good hygiene. Wash hands regularly after handling animals, particularly before eating.

Avoid letting your pet lick your face or share your food.

Wear gloves when picking up animal faeces, and if pregnant, avoid cleaning your cat’s litter tray. Give that job to someone else.

Wash hands after gardening or if children play in the soil or sandpit.



Written by Dr HELEN BURNS BVSc (Hons)

Helen graduated from Sydney Uni in 1997 with First Class Honours and worked in a practice on the Northern Beaches for 16 years. Helen joined the Gordon Vet team early in 2014 and our clients have really enjoyed getting to know her. She loves being a vet and takes a keen interest in all of her patients. Her gentle, friendly nature helps pets to feel relaxed when they visit the vet. Helen lives locally and has 3 children. At least one of her children seems destined to be a vet! When not ferrying her children around, Helen cares for her menagerie of pets. These include Chloe the dog, Obi and Leia the cats, Little Cocky the galah and Rosie the very tame eclectus parrot who all happily coexist at her house. In her spare time, Helen likes to be active outdoors, running, kayaking, camping or playing any manner of sport with her children.

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