You and your dog share a special bond. But if you’re like many dog parents, a bond is not the only thing you share. Dogs are family, so their germs don’t count—you tell yourself.
Yet when you’re sick with the flu, do you find yourself wondering whether it’s safe to kiss your dog? Should you treat your dog, and your kid, when you discover head lice? Are you suddenly worried about catching your dog’s diseases?
You sacrifice a dry face for doggy kisses, but do you know where that face has been?
Well, wonder no more, we’ll help you sort it all out.
While dogs can spread all kinds of diseases, humans can too.
In this article, we’ll talk about the diseases you can, and can’t, pass back and forth with your dog.
Can Humans Get Dogs Sick?
Humans can get dogs sick, although it remains rare.
Zoonotic diseases are those which can spread between species, either animals to humans, or humans to animals.
Zoonotic pathogens may be:
Zoonosis is when infectious diseases jump from animals and transmit to humans. However, growing evidence shows that some diseases can jump from humans and transmit to animals, as well.
When a disease jumps from humans to animals it is known as reverse zoonosis.
Humans can spread several diseases to dogs including:
- Some strains of flu
Can Dogs Catch Colds From Humans?
A dog can’t catch a cold from a human.
A cold is a general name referring to the common cold in humans. We use the term common cold to describe the virus which causes an onset of those familiar sniffly-sneezy cold-like symptoms we all know and love.
The common cold in humans is caused by a particular virus strain called rhinovirus.
Viral Rhinitis (the common cold)
The common cold is a viral infection in your upper respiratory tract (nose and throat). While there are more than 200 types of viruses responsible for the common cold, most of them are caused by the rhinovirus.
The viruses that cause common colds in humans are not zoonotic—they do not jump from one species (humans) to infect another species (dogs). So, dogs cannot catch a common cold from humans because they aren’t susceptible to the rhinovirus, which causes it.
However, dogs can develop colds, but the viruses responsible for dog-colds are different from the common cold virus in humans. Dog colds are typically caused by a bacteria or virus including:
- Bordetella Bronchiseptica—dog coughing, may be one cause of kennel cough
- Parainfluenza Virus—respiratory virus, different from canine influenza
Dogs may show cold-like symptoms that look like human cold-symptoms such as:
- Dog runny nose
- Breathing trouble
Flu viruses on the other hand are known to spread between species. But, whether dogs can catch the flu from humans is ripe with confusion so let’s break it down.
Can Dogs Get the Flu from Humans?
The short answer is yes, dogs can get the flu from humans, but they usually don’t.
Influenza, or flu, is a disease caused by influenza viruses. The flu feels like the common cold with more severe symptoms, like fever.
There are 3 types of influenza viruses responsible for flu in humans:
- Virus A
- Virus B
- Virus C
Type B affects mostly humans, and type C can infect humans, dogs, and pigs.
Type A influenza viruses are found in birds but may infect many other animals and humans.
Because type A viruses are transmitted between many species the potential for mutating, novel genetic shifting and adapting to a new host, is much greater. A novel virus has the potential to create a pandemic if it can sustain steady human-to-human transmission.
Influenza viruses prefer the host that allows it to spread quickly and easily.
For instance, the human seasonal flu virus prefers humans. The canine influenza virus prefers dogs. It doesn’t mean the virus can’t occasionally infect other types of species, but it rarely sustains for long, when it does.
Transmission is a virus’s bread and butter. A virus needs to spread across many host bodies fast to successfully thrive in that species.
However, dogs can get seasonal flu viruses from humans occasionally, such as:
- H1N1 – a virus A subtype, responsible for the Spanish flu outbreak, the Russian flu pandemic, and the Swine flu in 2009.
- H3N2 – a virus A subtype, responsible for more severe flu seasons.
You can relax though, human influenza viruses usually cause mild symptoms in dogs including:
- Runny nose
- Loss of appetite
- Respiratory infection
Dog flu may be treated at home. But if symptoms last more than two days it’s best to visit a veterinarian. Typically, dogs feel better in about a week with proper antibiotics.
Can Dogs Get Lice From Humans?
Lice are species-specific. Therefore, dogs cannot get lice from humans.
Human head lice only infest human heads and survive on human blood. Therefore, it isn’t possible for human lice to live on dogs.
Similarly, dog lice survive feeding on a dog’s skin and blood.
Pediculus Humanus (human head lice)
Human lice are tiny parasites typically found infecting human heads, eyebrows, and eyelashes. Like the stuff of nightmares, lice spend their entire existence feasting on the human scalp. Also, lice don’t have wings and they eat human blood.
Human head lice can only survive on the body of humans—you are its one and only snack. And what’s more hellish, because head lice don’t have wings, they must crawl.
However, lice won’t survive for long, typically no more than 3-7 days and some as little as 24 hours, if separated from their host.
So human lice will not survive on a dog and dog lice will not survive on a human head.
Remember, lice are species-specific, so dogs have their own special lice variety. Dog lice can infest dogs as rapidly as human lice can spread between humans so fast treatment is vital. To recognize dog lice, look for teeny crawling critters in your dog’s fur.
Dog lice’ typical traits include:
- A length between 1mm and 2.2mm
- Pale or grayish brown
- Shades of blue or red
- Sharp, pointy mouthed
Three types of lice can infect dogs including:
- Linognathus Setosus
- Trichodectes Canis
- Heterodoxus Spiniger
|Dog-Lice Variant||Primary Trait||Appearance||Behavior|
|Linognathus Setosus||sucking lice||Head is narrower than the body. Sharp and pointy mouth appendage to suck blood||Sucks blood in a mosquito-like manner. Lives primarily on the dog’s neck, shoulders, and under collar.|
|Trichodectes Canis||chewing lice||Flat head, head is wider than body.||Eats skin debris, attaches to the base of the dog’s hair.|
|Heterodoxus Spiniger||chewing lice||Blunt, flat head.||Eats skin debris, typically found in tropical climates.|
Dogs with lice may scratch a lot and act restless. Additionally, lice infested dogs may have matted fur, bite wounds, and hair-loss, typically around the neck, groin, and ears.
Dog lice may carry parasites like tapeworm which does infect humans as well as dogs, so it’s best to treat lice right away.
Can Dogs Get Pink Eye from Humans?
Yes, dogs can get pink-eye from pink-eye-infected humans through contact.
If a dog encounters a bacterial discharge from an infected eye, or you rub your eyes then touch the dog’s face, transmission is possible.
Conjunctivitis is inflammation of the clear tissue that lines the inside part of the eyelids atop the whites of the eyes. Inflammation causes swelling and redness causing the whites of the eyes to appear pink.
While pink-eye is not considered an emergency, without treatment dogs can develop permanent eye damage. Consult with your veterinarian for treatment options right away if you suspect your dog has conjunctivitis.
Pink-eye in humans and dogs may be caused by:
- Viruses including cold-viruses
- Allergies caused by dust, pollen, or contact lenses
- Chemical irritants from chlorine, shampoo, or dirt
- Fungi or a parasite
When conjunctivitis is caused by a virus or bacteria, it is highly contagious.
Symptoms of pink eye include:
- Clear, watery, or mucous discharge
- Yellowish or green discharge
- Excessive squinting or blinking
- Eyelids may appear puffy and red
- Pawing at the eyes
- Crusty eyes
Can Dogs Catch Human Viruses?
Yes, dogs can catch human viruses, including:
Although it’s rare, dogs can catch some strains of the flu virus from humans.
Sars-CoV-2, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, is the coronavirus that causes the Covid-19 disease. Infection is very rare and hasn’t been shown to spread from dogs to people.
A highly contagious viral disease.
Norovirus is a common cause of stomach flu and research has shown that dogs are susceptible to catching it from humans.
Can Dogs Get Humans Sick?
Yes, some diseases that dogs carry may be passed to humans.
Diseases dogs may transmit to humans include:
Dogs can spread rabies to humans and the only “cure” is prevention through vaccination. Once rabies symptoms appear, it’s too late and the virus is fatal.
The rabies virus attacks the brain and symptoms may include confusion, hostility, or paralysis.
Rabies infections are typically transmitted to dogs through hunting or killing an infected wild animal, then the dog comes back home potentially spreading it to humans.
Most common in cats. However, toxoplasmosis may infect dogs too through contaminated soil or contact with an infected animal.
Dogs can spread toxoplasmosis to humans. Symptoms include muscle weakness, eye inflammation, and tremors, to name a few.
Can Humans Get Worms From Dogs?
Yes. Humans can get worms from dogs, including:
- Hydatid Tapeworms
|Parasitic Worm Type||Transmission||Behavior|
|Roundworms||Ingesting eggs found in soil near infected dog’s feces.||Larvae can get into internal organs affecting muscles, eyes, and the brain.|
|Hookworms||Found in infected dog’s feces. Larvae infect humans through the skin, through the feet if you walk barefoot.||Hookworms can cause skin lesions among other complications.|
|Hydatid Tapeworms||Humans may get tapeworms by ingesting worm eggs passed through infected dog feces.||Tapeworms can cause cysts in the liver, brain, and lungs. Symptoms include diarrhea, random weight loss, swollen abdomen, and fatigue.|
|Whipworms||Ingesting eggs in contaminated dirt.||Very rarely transmitted to humans from dogs. Symptoms include abdominal pain, headaches, vomiting, weight loss, bloody diarrhea|
Can Humans Get Fleas From Dogs?
It’s impossible for fleas to survive on humans. But fleas are very comfortable living in carpeting, upholstery, or bedding if a viable host such as a dog, lives in the home.
Fleas carry diseases that may be transmitted to humans or dogs through flea bites including:
Bartonella Henselae Infection (cat scratch fever)
While cat scratch fever is usually caused by an infected cat, it’s possible to get it from an infected flea bite.
Yersinia Pestis (Bubonic Plague)
The Plague sounds ancient and terrifying. Luckily, today it’s rare and treatment is available.
From 1900-2012 there have been less than 1000 cases of bubonic plague in the U.S., but transmission is possible through an infected flea bite.
The best line of defense against fleas is prevention. Luckily there are so many dog treatments, topical and oral, that are very effective and safe to keep these pests off the dog and out of the home.
Can Humans Get Ear Mites from Dogs?
Although ear mites don’t prefer a human host, they can find their way into human ears and attach to human ear canals. Ear mites feast on skin and ear wax.
Symptoms of ear mites in humans may include:
- Persistent itchy ears
- Redness and irritation
- Dark-colored ear wax
- Tinnitus (ringing or humming in the ears)
- Ear pressure
If you suspect you have ear mites it’s important to see a doctor right away. You may be referred to an ear nose and throat specialist who will flush out the excess wax and prescribe you medicated ear drops.
Dog Diseases Transmitted to Humans
Can Humans get Parvo from Dogs?
Canine Parvovirus cannot spread from dogs to humans.
However, dog Parvovirus is very contagious between dogs and is potentially fatal, so immediate treatment is necessary.
Canine parvovirus spreads easily between dogs. It can live on surfaces for months and is resistant to hot, cold, dry, and humid conditions.
Parvovirus spreads through feces, and can live on most surfaces like leashes, food bowls, kennels, shoes, toys, humans, or clothing, where it can survive 5-6 months!
Symptoms of canine parvovirus include:
- Abdominal pain
- Low body temperature
- Bloody stool
Can Humans get Canine Influenza from Dogs?
There are two strains of canine influenza:
- H3N8 – An influenza virus that spread from horses to dogs and is now transmittable between canines.
- H3N2 – Canine influenza that originated in birds and then spread to dogs.
There aren’t any cases of canine influenza infecting humans, but influenza viruses are known to jump between species.
Therefore, while the risk of dog-to-human transmission is considered very low risk, it is not impossible.
Even though drool, slobber, and licks on your face are your dog’s deepest expressions of true love, your dog shoves its snout into gross things daily. But humans are not squeaky clean, either. So, protect yourself and your dog from diseases by maintaining your health, your dog’s health, and safeguarding your healthy bond.