Can Dogs Get Sick From Humans? Understanding the Risks

Can Dogs Get Sick From Humans? Understanding the Risks
Photo by Neil Cooper

"Can I get my dog sick?"

If you've ever asked this, don't worry, you're not alone.

As a veterinarian, I've heard multiple people get concerned about things that might potentially make their dog sick. This story highlights a frequent question among pet owners: Can dogs get sick from humans?

The answer is not straightforward, and stick around (or skip to the end) to learn about perhaps an even bigger concern. Let's explore the risks, symptoms to watch for, and how to protect your pets from potential infections.

Zoonotic Diseases: What Are They?

Zoonotic diseases are illnesses that can be transmitted between animals and humans.

Rabies is one of the most important zoonotic diseases because it is highly deadly! Although vaccination has made this disease relatively rare in North America, certain places like South America have areas with a high prevalence of rabies. Photo Credit: Defining New Pathways to Manage the Ongoing Emergence of Bat Rabies in Latin America

While many diseases can jump from animals to humans (like rabies), fewer diseases can be transmitted from humans to dogs. However, some viruses and bacteria are exceptions.

Some Human Illnesses That Can Affect Dogs

  • Influenza (Flu): Dogs can contract certain strains of the flu from humans, although it's rare. Some types of flu have been shown to infect dogs in some cases. Symptoms in dogs include coughing, fever, and excessive tiredness.
  • MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus): This antibiotic-resistant bacteria can be transmitted between humans and dogs. Usually this bacteria just lives on the surface of the skin, but can potentially cause major infections if health risks, especially to those with weaker immune systems.

Ultimately, yes, some diseases can be spread from humans to dogs, however, as a veterinarian, this is usually not very common.

What I am much more concerned about may surprise you.

The Bigger, More Common Concern: Can Humans Get Sick From Dogs?

It is usually more common to worry about the opposite scenario: humans getting sick from dogs. Here are a few zoonotic diseases that humans can contract from their pets:

  • Tapeworms: These parasites can be transmitted through contact with infected fleas or by ingesting contaminated food or water.
Did you know fleas can give your dogs tapeworms? If you see little white things that look like grains of rice in your dogs poop, chances are they have tapeworms (and probably fleas)! Photo Credit: Elanco.
  • Rabies: This deadly virus can be transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected animal. Vaccinating your pets against rabies is crucial to prevent this disease​ (fun fact, this is required in all states in the USA except for Hawaii).
  • Fleas: Fleas can carry and transmit various diseases to humans. Not to mention they are gross and can make people very itchy! Luckily the dog flea usually does not like to live on humans.

Practical Tips for Pet Owners

Given these challenges, here are some practical tips to help you protect your dog from potential human illnesses:

  1. Good Hygiene: Regular hand washing is essential, especially if you are sick. This simple step can prevent the spread of many germs.
  2. Vet Consultation: If you suspect your dog might have an illness from you, consult your veterinarian immediately. Early detection and treatment can prevent serious health issues.
  3. Regular Vet Visits: Ensure your dog has regular check-ups and vaccinations to prevent diseases and catch any health issues early.
  4. Preventative Care: Zoonotic diseases like fleas and tapeworms are usually prevented with flea prevention and dewormer! Speak with your veterinarian to set up a prevention plan to keep your pet healthy.


While it is rare for dogs to get sick from humans, some illnesses can be transmitted. By understanding these risks and taking preventive measures, you can protect your dog from potential infections. Regular vet visits and good hygiene practices are crucial for maintaining your pet's health.