Can pets affect your skin health?

Snr RN Kim Murphy|Skin Health
30 May 2019

In many homes, pets are part of the family. Snuggling up with our fury friends feels so good, specially in these chilly months.

But did you know our beloved cats and dogs can share more with us than their love?

Our pets carry the ability to transfer what’s known as zoonotic diseases, which can affect our skin health, as well as transfer other health issues to us.

What are zoonotic diseases?

A zoonotic disease is any disease that can be spread from an animal to a human.

Cats and dogs have the potential to transfer a wide variety of conditions to us. So if you have pets in the home, it’s useful to know what to do if you notice a symptom.

Common zoonotic, or pet-transferred diseases

Some of the most common zoonotic diseases are:


Hookworm is a very common parasite that can affect both cats and dogs.

When passed from a pet to their humans, this shows on the skin as an infection, known as a “creeping eruption”.

This conditions presents like a rash, with blisters and severe itching. Generally, your doctor will prescribe an oral medication that will destroy the parasite.


Ringworm is a condition that is caused by a fungal infection – not actually a worm. It can be passed both from pet to human and human to pet.

Signs of this condition are a scaly crusted rash that may appear as round, red patches on the skin.

Other symptoms include patches of hair loss, scaly scalp, blister like lesions and itching.

Treatment will be dependent on the location and severity of the ringworm infection, and may include a topical application and/or oral anti-fungal medication.

Bacterial Skin Infections

Bacterial skin infections from our pets can be passed to us through contact with their urine, faeces, saliva or fur.

Among the more common and serious bacteria that our fury friends can share is staphylococcus – the most likely one to cause a skin infection.

Your doctor will prescribe antibiotic therapy if the infection warrants it.

How to limit the risk of contracting an infection from your pet

The best defence against your pet transferring health issues to your family is to keep pets healthy.

To keep your pet in good a physical condition, regular check ups with your vet and fast action whenever symptoms of skin issues arise in your pets is key. They can’t pass on what they don’t have themselves!

We suggest talking to your vet about zoonotic disease prevention at your pet’s next regular visit. Your vet should be able to advise you on any particular risks associated with your pet.

What to do if symptoms occur in a person?

Should anyone in the family develop a skin symptom that seems unusual, as with any medical symptom, please seek medical advice from your quickly. Your GP is the best place to start, and should refer you to a dermatologist if the issue requires specialist skin knowledge.

However, if you’re concerned about the appearance of symptoms of your skin, or the skin of someone in your family, you can always come to see our dermatologist directly.

Appointments with our dermatologist can be made by calling our receptionists on (02) 9953 9522, or by visiting your GP and asking for a referral.


Written by Kim Murphy.
Kim is our senior registered nurse and has been a beloved pet owner for many years.