Scary and Unexpected Health Risks for Dog Owners

There are a lot of benefits to owning a pet. Pets can put you in a better mood, enhance your fitness, and might even boost your immune system. Unfortunately, some pets, like dogs, also come with some pretty terrifying health risks. Though rare, a scratch, bite, or innocent kiss from your pup could result in an infection. Here are health risks dog owners should be aware of.

1. Salmonella

Do you know what's in your dog's food?

Choose your pet’s food wisely. |

Dog owners — especially children — are at higher risk of contracting salmonella. It isn’t your furry friend’s fault, though — it’s their food. Some processed pet foods and treats can carry salmonella-causing bacteria that can make you, and not your pets, sick. Though it’s possible to keep your dog on a fresh, more natural diet, do so with caution. The FDA recommends that you avoid feeding your dog raw meat, or follow proper food preparation procedures when handling raw pet food to avoid contamination.

2. Bubonic plague

The plague is also treatable with antibiotics.

Humans can still get the bubonic plague, depending on where they live. |

Sometimes, dogs get fleas. Sometimes, those fleas carry bacteria that can cause — wait for it — bubonic plague. This is much more common in rural, heavily forested areas in the U.S., says the CDC — though only between one and 17 cases are reported each year. Unlike during the epidemic you’re probably thinking of, anyone infected with the bubonic plague, especially in the U.S., has access to antibiotic treatment. The sooner someone starts taking antibiotics, the better.

3. Ringworm

Dog owners should learn the signs of ringworm in dogs.

Thankfully, fungal infections are easily treatable. |

Bacterial infections, transferred from pets to their owners, aren’t as common as infections like ringworm. According to petMD, this fungal infection can affect your dog’s nails, skin, and hair. Since ringworm spreads by way of spores, it’s extremely contagious — you could get it, too. Though its resulting rashes aren’t life-threatening, the itching can be unpleasant. A dermatologist or primary care doctor can prescribe an oral or topical medication to get rid of the infection.

4. Lyme disease

Some ticks carry lyme disease-causing bacteria.

Always check your pup for ticks. |

Fleas aren’t the only pests dog owners need to worry about. Ticks can also hitch a ride on your dog’s back — and come into contact with your delicious blood when you pet your pup. Some ticks carry Lyme disease-causing bacteria, which can enter your bloodstream in one bite and cause an infection. Mayo Clinic says Lyme diseases can be treated with antibiotics. The sooner you seek treatment, the quicker your recovery.

5. Rabies

A dog bite or exposure to saliva could result in rabies.

There are only a handful of cases in the U.S. annually — but you could be one of them. | tsik/Getty Images

Though it’s extremely unlikely, a dog infected with rabies can pass it along to you (another reason not to let him or her “kiss” you on the mouth!). According to the CDC, like many infections, rabies starts out looking a lot like the flu. Symptoms worsen as the disease progresses, sometimes even producing hallucinations. However, usually when rabies symptoms appear, it’s already too late to get treatment. The good news is, only one to three cases of human rabies are reported every year. So it’s uncommon — but possible.

6. Pesticide poisoning

Some tick and flea collars contain pesticides.

Skip the flea collar. | mbot/Getty Images

Since fleas and ticks carry so many terrifying diseases, it makes perfect sense to give your dog a collar. That may not be the wisest choice after all, though. Men’s Journal says many flea and tick collars contain pesticides that could endanger the health of both you and your fur babies. Instead of settling for collars, talk to your vet about safer treatment options. They’ll be able to answer all your questions and address any health concerns related to pet store or vet-prescribed remedies.

7. Tapeworms

Some fleas carry tapeworm larvae.

Dog is man’s best friend — fleas are not. |

Your dog can’t give you a tapeworm — but an infected flea from your dog definitely can. The American Kennel Club says children are at higher risk because they often put their hands in their mouths without washing them first. It’s also possible for an adult to accidentally swallow a tapeworm-infested flea, but it’s not as common. Thankfully, tapeworms in both dogs and their tiny humans are easily treated with oral medication.