Maintaining good hygiene around dogs is important for dog lovers of all types, and it is good practice to wash your hands after petting your dog, stop them from licking your face, and to keep your dog and home in general clean and hygienic to prevent either the canine or human family members from becoming ill.
We’re all aware that fleas, some types of mites and other parasites like worms can be transmitted back and forth between dogs and people, and dogs have lived side by side with people for millennia and share our homes and lives with us, and we have more in common biologically and physically than we do apart. However, even taking that into account, there are far fewer zoonotic conditions and problems that can pass between dogs and humans than many people expect.
A zoonotic condition is one that can jump the species divide to affect another species altogether – such as humans catching problems from dogs and vice versa. Relatively few canine health conditions and parasites are infectious to humans, and even within conditions that are, it is often harder to catch them than many people think.
However, there are a number of skin conditions and dermatological symptoms and conditions that can arise in humans as a result of contact with dogs, or the transmission of an infection or other agent to humans that was carried by the dog.
In this article we will explore some human skin conditions that can be caught from dogs, or exacerbated by contact with dogs. Read on to learn more.
Ringworm is actually a fungus rather than a worm, and it doesn’t set up home within the body but rather on the skin. Ringworm is perhaps the most contagious skin condition that can be passed back and forth between dogs and the people that live with them, and simple skin to skin contact can be enough to result in a ringworm infection in people.
Ringworm causes round-ish red patches to develop on the skin, with a darker shade to the outside of the ring itself, which is the active part of the fungus that spreads ever-outwards as it grows.
Ringworm is very contagious across both people and dogs, and whilst it is usually simple to clear up with topical antifungal medications, this can take quite some time, during which the risk of cross-infection remains high.
However, whilst it can be unpleasant to look at and may be mildly itchy, ringworm is unlikely to have a significant effect on your health.
A dog that has a chronic flea infestation for a long time might develop an overly-aggressive immune response to flea bites, which is known as flea bite sensitivity or flea bite dermatitis. When this occurs, your dog’s body overreacts to the saliva present in flea bites, causing a significant localised reaction anywhere on the body that they are bitten.
Fleas can of course bite humans too, although fleas also come in different types, some of which can only live on some species of animals, and dog-specific fleas don’t tend to target humans out of choice. However, dogs can also host fleas other than canine-specific ones, and these are often much less discerning about who they bite!
If you are bitten by a flea you will of course know this, but if you have a really extreme reaction to flea bites, you too may have flea bite sensitivity, just as can occur in dogs.
This is not so much a condition that you have caught from your dog, but more a reflection of the same process of hypersensitisation and immune response that occurs over time in the body if it is regularly exposed to flea bites.
A reasonable if small percentage of people are allergic to some dogs, and the ways in which the symptoms of a dog allergy may manifest can be varied and numerous. Some allergy sufferers will exhibit hayfever-like symptoms, others will have a full body immune response, and for others, contact with a dog might result in dermatitis, or skin flare-ups.
If you often react badly to dogs and find yourself with a rash or itchy hands and arms after contact with dogs, you may already be aware that you’re allergic to some dogs. However, not all dogs trigger symptoms in all allergy sufferers, and some people are fine with the vast majority of dogs they meet, and only react badly to the odd one or two.
Ear mites, mange mites and various other forms of skin mites use dogs as hosts, and they can make your dog very itchy and uncomfortable, even in the early stages. However, most skin mites that can live on dogs cannot live on humans, so the chances of you catching mites from your dog are low.
Even when it comes to mange mites, which can be hugely contagious between dogs, they don’t tend to target humans. Demodetic mange is the most common type of mange mite to infest dogs, and this is not infectious to humans.
However, sarcoptic mange mites, the less common type of mange, is very contagious to both other dogs and humans, so if your dog has this type of mange or you have been in contact with a dog that does, you may potentially become a host for the condition yourself.
Sarcoptic mange leads to really itchy, irritating skin that may cause you to scratch yourself to distraction, and you will need to speak to your GP to get the right treatment to resolve it.
Some seasonal parasites like harvest mites that dogs can pick up when outside can also target people, leaving an itchy rash in their place, but again, it is unusual for harvest mites to be passed from a dog to a human as part of day to day life. However, dog ear mites and most other types of mites won’t bother you at all!