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Diseases Transmitted From Dogs to Humans

Diseases that can be transmitted from dogs to humans are called Zoonotic Diseases. Practically all diseases of pets (bacterial, viral and parasitic) are spread by direct contact with blood, saliva, urine or feces of an infected animal.

This article does not address all zoonotic diseases but rather, the most common diseases, which can be passed from dogs to humans. You should always seek medical advice if you suspect that you or your pet has contracted a disease.


Rabies is shed in the saliva of an infected dog. Feral dogs are most affected and typically contract this virus from the bite of an infected mammal such as a raccoon. Domesticated dogs are rarely exposed as this virus has been virtually eliminated due to mandatory vaccination policies. Humans too are rarely exposed unless they regularly come into contact with feral dogs.

The rabies virus deteriorates the brain and is always fatal in dogs. The disease is fatal in humans if it is not treated before symptoms appear. While rabies in humans is extremely rare, you should seek medical attention immediately if you believe you have contracted this virus.

Symptoms for dogs include aggressive or bizarre behavior, frothing at the mouth and neurological symptoms such as stumbling or paralysis. Symptoms for humans include headache, muscle spasms or pain, itching or twitching sensations at the infection site.


TICKBORNE – Prominent in North Carolina

Dogs are not carriers of the following three tickborne diseases, but they are instrumental in bringing them to humans via infected ticks. The diseased tick can infect humans through a bite, or through skin contamination if you have direct contact with the crushed tissue or feces of ticks. Ticks are prominent in North Carolina’s environment and humans may easily come into contact with them in the woods, forests or their back yard. If you or your pet received a tick bite, seek medical attention immediately. Whenever possible, seal the tick in a container and bring it with you.

1. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

North Carolina often reports the most cases of this disease in the nation. Usually, dogs don’t show outward signs of the disease though they may have laboratory test abnormalities. These dogs typically recover quickly. Other dogs may have a variety of symptoms including loss of appetite, fever, depression, vomiting, diarrhea, pain in muscles or joints and swelling in the face. Neurological signs such as dizziness, stupor or seizures may develop.

Symptoms for humans mimic flu symptoms and may include a rash.

2. Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria found in deer ticks. Symptoms in dogs include fever, swollen lymph nodes, loss of appetite and lameness. The Lyme Vaccination is highly recommended to protect dogs against this threat.

Symptoms for humans include the characteristic “bull’s-eye” rash and flu-like symptoms. Left untreated, this disease has long-term chronic and disabling effects.

3. Ehrlichiosis

Ehrlichiosis is a disease caused by bacteria in certain ticks. While cases are rare in North Carolina, the number of cases reported annually is growing. Symptoms in dogs include fever, lethargy, lameness and bleeding tendencies.

Symptoms in humans generally mimic flu like symptoms and may include pain, confusion, and a rash, particularly in children. This is a severe illness requiring hospitalization in most cases and left untreated, can be fatal.


This organism is shed in the urine of infected animals. Swimmers, unknowingly submerging themselves in contaminated water are the most frequently affected.

Symptoms in dogs include excessive water drinking, fever, depression and shivering. They appear to ache and be tender all over. The dogs stop eating and drinking and often drool and vomit.

Symptoms in humans include flu like symptoms and may include jaundice (yellowing of skin and eyes), abdominal pain, or a rash.



Roundworm is one of the most common internal parasites. The eggs of this parasite are deposited in the feces of animals and live in the soil for a long time. Children are the most susceptible due to their propensity for putting dirty hands in their mouths. Swift and proper disposal of pet waste mitigates the transmission of these parasites.

Roundworm in puppies robs them of the nourishment they need. Symptoms include a malnourished appearance, diarrhea or a pot-bellied appearance. Adult dogs are not affected as severely, although they may suffer from diarrhea, vomiting and coughing. Their coats will typically have a dry and dull appearance.

In humans, signs of infection include chest pain, coughing, rash, and fever. Worms may also be noticed in vomit and feces.


Larvae of this parasite are found in moist sand or soil and affect bathers along the beaches in the southern coastal states. They are picked up by contact, where they feed off the blood of their host. Symptoms in dogs include anemia, lethargy, poor stamina and bloody stool.

Symptoms in humans include rash, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. Many humans are infected but are asymptomatic.


Ringworm is an external fungus, which causes hair loss in circular patches. The skin will be scaly and if not treated, will spread to the entire body. Children are more susceptible than adults, as they typically don’t practice good hand sanitation.

Dogs and humans share the same symptoms, which include raised patches that may blister and ooze. Patches are often shaped in a circle and are usually scaly. Hair loss is typically evidenced in and around the affected area.

Parasite Prevention

Prevention is always easier than the cure. The variety of parasites and the number of months you must live with them is greatly influenced by where you live.

Proper sanitation in your home and immediate disposal of pet waste will aid in preventing the spread of most of these agents.

© Paws in Training, Inc. 2009

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