Do you smooch your pooch? Here’s something to think about; where your pet goes, so go you.

Each time you kiss your beloved pet on their furry face, their recent meal might very well be shared with you, including dead bats, mice, rats and even roadkill. Their visits are your visits - the litter box or sniffing grass and gifts from previous visitors. And even if you don’t kiss your pet on the mouth or face, they are constantly cleaning their paws, body and ears, so bacteria and germs are all over Mr. or Ms. I Love You Furry Child of Mine.

Zoonosis, the transmission of diseases between humans and animals is a potential hazard for all pet owners. I am not saying that everyone is at risk for being exposed to bacteria, diseases or parasites transmitted from pets to humans, but the risk is there and pet owners should be aware and cautious.  The information offered merely aims to inform and forewarn owners of dogs and cats about how opportunity, frequency and exposure can create the perfect environment for “sharing”, therefore exposing pet owners to potential health risks. Look at it as, instead of consumer beware…owner beware.


What can you actually get from Rover? According to WebMD, intestinal parasites like hookworm, roundworm and giardia can be passed from dog to human through licking and kissing, as can ringworm, a fungal skin infection. Salmonella bacteria which causes food poisoning, can also be passed from your dog to you, and vice versa.

Should you plant a kiss on Garfield’s face? A cat's mouth may be no dirtier than ours, however, cats have bacteria and hundreds of microorganisms living in their mouths, which cause gum disease. As predators, they eat animals and insects that may harbor diseases. And a cat's bite can be dangerous because of deep punctures, thereby allowing the transmission of common bacteria such as pasteurella, staphylococcus, E-Coli and salmonella, all of which are highly contagious.

Both cats’ and dogs’ mouths contain the Pasteurella virus that can cause cellulitis, a common, potentially serious bacterial skin infection in humans, if transmitted onto a wound. Ringworm, the fungal skin infection, is easily spread from cats to other animals, as well as humans and vice versa, via direct contact, but treatable.

Contagious bacteria, diseases and parasites

  • Hookworm
  • Roundworm
  • Ringworm
  • Giardia
  • Salmonella
  • Pasteurella
  • Staphylococcus
  • E-coli

An important general recommendation: People with weak immune systems should avoid kissing pets. That includes those with HIV/AIDS, those who have had an organ transplant, and those who are on medicines for cancer that limit the body’s ability to fight off infection.

According to Andrew Weil, M.D., an internationally-recognized expert for his views on healthy lifestyle, and holistic medicine and health care, Dr. Weil advises that the best way to protect yourself and your family is by providing regular veterinary care for your pets to ensure that they’re healthy, and stay that way, so you can be healthy and stay that way, as well.

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