When's the last time you were really, really sick? It's no fun feeling under the weather, especially when you're very sick and can't even get out of bed. On those days, you might hear people say they feel “sick as a dog."

We're not sure what that means, since most dogs seem to feel good most of the time. It did lead us to WONDER, though, about what happens when dogs do get sick. Can they make you sick? Or what about the opposite? Can you pass along your cold or flu to your dog?

The good news is that most common illnesses you're familiar with, such as common colds and the flu, don't affect humans and pets in the same way. So you don't have to worry about giving your cat a cold or your dog giving you the flu.

Likewise, many of the common sicknesses that pets encounter, such as heartworm, kennel cough, and canine parvovirus, can make animals very sick, but they aren't a danger to humans. The viruses and other causes of these illnesses simply affect humans and animals differently.

The bad news, though, is that there are plenty of diseases and illnesses that can be spread from pets to human beings. Let's take a look at a few examples:

  • Lyme disease: Animals can get Lyme disease from ticks, and your pet can transmit that tick to you. Another disease carried by ticks is Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Be sure to always check pets — and yourself! — for ticks after spending time outside.
  • Mange or scabies: Mange or scabies can be passed from dogs and cats to humans. Symptoms include skin irritation, hair loss, and severe itching.
  • Toxoplasmosis: Almost all warm-blooded animals, especially cats, can carry a parasite that can cause an infection known as toxoplasmosis, which is especially dangerous to pregnant women.
  • Salmonella: Infections from salmonella can be passed along from infected animals, including reptiles kept as pets.
  • Rabies: The most serious and severe infection that can be passed from animals to humans is rabies. Rabies is an incurable and fatal disease. Pets must be vaccinated for rabies.

Although pets can pass along a variety of diseases and illnesses to humans, the dangers can be minimized by keeping your pets healthy. Keep their shots up to date, take them to the veterinarian for check-ups on a regular basis, and make sure you feed them healthy food. After interacting with your pets, always be sure to wash your hands thoroughly. With just a little precaution, you can enjoy all the benefits of pets without the worries of diseases and illnesses.

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