Ever wondered if your pup has a cold? Maybe they’re just acting more tired than usual, seem to have a runny nose or watering eyes, or perhaps they just seem, well, off.
It turns out that dogs actually can get sick, although it may be a little different in our pups than in us. They can get the cold, the flu, parvo (which is a pup-specific disease), and many other things that might not make them feel good. But, is there anything that our pups can pass back to us?
Many owners, after learning that their pups can get sick, wonder whether or not they can get us sick in turn. If they have a cough, can they give it to us? If they have the sniffles, will we get them too? More than 80 million American households own some sort of pet (generally a dog or a cat), so the answer to this question is super important!
While we can't get a cold or flu from our pups, there are different diseases and viruses that we can catch from our furry friends, like worms, diarrhea, and even the bubonic plague! But don't fret just yet - while we can catch all these things from our doggos, many are easy to avoid, as long as we take care of ourselves and our little fur-children!
Signs Your Dog May Be Sick
There are only a handful of diseases that can be passed from pooch to person, but it's still important we learn the signs of sickness in our dogs, not only so we can avoid getting sick ourselves, but also so we can get our dogs to the vet and feeling happy and healthy!
One of the sicknesses that we can get from our puppers are worms, of which there are many variations - ringworm, roundworm, hookworms, and tapeworms. While they all have different symptoms in your pup, what you need to look out for is on their skin and (unfortunately) in their poop! For ringworm, your pup may have skin lesions or patches of hair loss with red marks in the center. For roundworm, you may see diarrhea, vomiting, or coughing. For hookworms, symptoms include diarrhea and weight loss. And for tapeworms, you may see your pup scootching their booties across the ground! Their feces may also have rice-like pieces.
All these are (unfortunately) diseases that we can catch from our pups. Symptoms we show after catching them are similar to those in dogs, so it's important we catch it early to prevent pain and extended periods of sickness for both us and our pups!
Other diseases our dogs can dive to us include giardia, campylobacter, salmonella, and rabies. While the first three may cause intestinal issues in pups and people, the last is the most serious and needs to be avoided at all costs. Unfortunately, once rabies has been contracted by our pets, it's fatal once symptoms appear, so prevention is of the utmost priority. Symptoms include behavioral changes, fever, hiding in dark places, and foaming at the mouth. Luckily, it's pretty rare in pets (it's mostly found in wild animals), and you can get shots and vaccinations for both you and your pup for prevention.
For all of these illnesses, a sick dog is just going to act differently, and you should be able to notice these changes. Many will act lethargic, and may not want to do some of the things they normally love the most, like going for walks or playing with their favorite toy.
Another general behavior change to look out for is lack of appetite or weight loss. Like in humans, a sick doggo often won't want to eat, mainly because their tummies hurt or they're uncomfortable. Just look for a pooch that isn't acting like their normal, lovable selves, and take them to the vet any time you're worried!
The Science Behind Dogs Making Us Sick
Luckily for both us and our puppers, most of the viruses and bacteria that get us aren't compatible between the two species. That means that the virus creating a cold we have isn't sustainable in our dog's bodies, and vice versa. Most of the time, we won't be able to pass a disease to our dog, and they won't be able to pass one to us!
There are, like we've talked about, several diseases that are capable of surviving in both human and dog bodies, however. Dogs are dirtier than us, and they have much more interaction with germs and other organisms since they seem to want to eat, sniff, and lick everything in sight! Sometimes, dogs will be carrying germs that don't make them sick, so they won't have any symptoms.
However, once they enter our bodies, they can make us pretty ill, so we need to be careful! But, overall, studies have shown that "you're far more likely to get sick from another person than from your dog or cat." That doesn't mean that you shouldn't take precautions though - make sure to wash your hands after handling your pup or cleaning up after their potties, and take your pooch to the vet for regular checkups!
Keeping Your Dog From Getting Sick
While there's no way to "train" our dogs not to get sick, there are things that we can do as pet owners to keep our little buddies happy and healthy, and consequentially, us as well!
Make sure that you always wash your hands after you play with or pet your pooch, and especially after picking up their poops on their walks. It's also always important to take your doggo on regular checkups, and make sure that they get any vaccinations, deworming, or other procedures that your vet suggests.
Also, try to keep them as far away from wild animals as possible - we can try to keep our pets clean and safe, but you never know what diseases or bacteria forrest critters are carrying!
By Katherine McCormick
Published: 03/19/2018, edited: 04/06/2020