Is owning a dog a health or hygiene risk, or does it make you more vulnerable to disease?

Is owning a dog a health or hygiene risk, or does it make you more vulnerable to disease?

Health & Safety

The sheer number of people who own dogs in the UK and live to old age should make it fairly clear that having a dog isn’t among the greatest of dangers or hazards you might willingly let yourself in for, and in fact having a dog can be really good for you, particularly in terms of helping you to get fit and stay active.

However, even people who really love their dogs would find it hard to argue a case that dogs are particularly clean animals, and some of the things that dogs do can be outright disgusting, and that’s just on a normal day… Not counting special occasions when they might say, eat poop or roll in the remains of a dead fox they find in the park.

It is only natural therefore to wonder if owning a dog or being in continual close contact with dogs can pose a health or hygiene risk to people, or perhaps mean you’re at risk of catching an illness from your dog, or being more vulnerable to disease in general.

The short answer to this is that there are risks involved in dog ownership (just as there are in any other aspect of life) but as long as you’re aware of them and mitigate accordingly, having a dog should not be a health or hygiene risk.

To provide a more complete answer, this article will tell you how your dog could theoretically pose a threat to your health or hygiene if you were not aware, or if certain scenarios played out, and how you can reduce related risks. Read on to learn more.

Dog bites and risk

Dog bites are perhaps the most common serious health hazard that dogs can pose to people, and whilst we think of them as uncommon, most people will be bitten or nipped by a dog once in their lives, and those who have lots of contact with dogs (such as people who work with them, vets, dog groomers and so on) perhaps a lot more!

Not all dog bites are serious, but all should be taken seriously; both in terms of the gravity of the situation of a bite itself, and in terms of the level of injury caused.

Learning how to read canine body language, ensuring that your own dog is obedient and well mannered, and not approaching strange dogs without permission all help reduce the risk.


Even a little nip from a dog bite that breaks the skin, or a scratch that leaves a cut from a dog’s claw brings with it a risk of infection, and this is often more of a threat than a bite itself. Once more, taking care to avoid injury with your dog plus being scrupulous about cleaning and caring for a dog-related cut, and getting medical attention if needed, is key to reducing risk.


Dog fleas don’t tend to bite humans out of choice, but they can and sometimes do. If your dog is riddled with fleas or your house is infested with dog fleas, this can affect you too. Not only is this unpleasant, but can result in infected bites.

Keep your dog and home flea-free to reduce the risk!


Ringworm is not a worm but a fungal skin condition, which can be passed between dogs and humans. It is relatively minor and very easy to catch, but proper hygiene can help to reduce the chances of picking up ringworm from your dog, and your vet can provide instructions and products to treat your dog themselves.

More serious health conditions

There are some more serious health conditions that can be passed onto people from dogs, and most of these can be found in dog poop; the risk then coming from contact with dog poop, or failing to keep good hygiene protocols when you clean up after your dog. Salmonella and eColi are two of the better-known nasties.

Additionally, leptospirosis is another potentially serious health condition people can catch from dogs, and is spread by contact with infected urine. If your dog is not infected, they can’t pass it on to you; and leptospirosis is included in the standard canine combined vaccine, so keep them up to date!

Allergies and asthma

People who are allergic to dogs and even those that suffer from acute asthma might be affected by the presence of a dog, although some people will be affected more severely than others.

Being allergic to some dogs doesn’t mean you’ll be allergic to all of them, and not all dogs are likely to trigger asthma as badly as others, and so an issue like this doesn’t mean that you’ll necessarily have to rule dog ownership out of your future.

However, it is vital to understand that having a dog, or being around dogs a lot can have an impact on such conditions.

Heightened risks from dogs for immune-compromised people

The risk of getting any sort of health problem from your dog is low, even if you’re really lax about hygiene or take a lot of risks! However, this assumes that you’re in generally good health and fairly robust; the risks will be higher for young children, elderly people, or anyone with a weakened immune system when it comes to infectious and opportunistic conditions.



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