Diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans are called zoonotic diseases. Although there are some diseases that can be caught from your pet, it is an uncommon occurrence. Most sicknesses that animals have are not contagious to people, and vice versa. For example, your puppy cannot give you parvovirus and you cannot give your dog or cat the cold or the flu. Nevertheless, there are a few zoonotic diseases of note with potential to spread from animals to people.
People can contract intestinal parasites that may have infected their pets. Children are especially susceptible, because they don't typically practice hygiene the way adults do (such as frequently washing their hands). Hookworms are contagious to people and spread through unprotected skin, usually when someone walks barefoot through a contaminated area. Roundworms are also zoonotic and are usually spread by the ingestion of eggs through contaminated soil or contaminated hands.
Toxoplasmosis is an extremely rare protozoan disease that is very dangerous for pregnant women and the developing fetus. The cat is the host for this parasite, but don't panic. Certain precautions can be taken to ensure the safety of the fetus, and there is no need to get rid of Whiskers. Simply have someone else empty your cat's litter box daily. Also, always wash your hands after handling your cat and before eating.
Perhaps the most well-known zoonotic disease is rabies. However, due to the frequency of the rabies vaccine, this disease is seldom seen in household pets. The risk of exposure is still present due to wild animals, and your pet should be vaccinated regularly against the rabies virus.
Often the family pet is falsely blamed for pinworm infections in small children. Contrary to popular belief, pinworms are not transmitted to people from their dogs or cats. Pinworms are parasites that infect omnivores and herbivores, but never carnivores like your dog or cat.
This brief summary does not cover all zoonotic diseases, but only some of the most common ones. Luckily, most of these diseases are preventable with the proper care of your pets, such as keeping Fluffy on monthly heartworm preventative and yearly visits to your veterinarian. Still, if you are concerned that your pet may have transmitted something to you, consult your doctor and veterinarian for further advice.