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Zoonoses from pets other than dogs and cats

Camille N Kotton, MD
Section Editor
Daniel J Sexton, MD
Deputy Editor
Jennifer Mitty, MD, MPH


Pets serve valuable social roles in society [1,2]. Pets may lower blood pressure, reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and improve feelings of loneliness, while increasing opportunities for exercise, outdoor activities, and socialization [1,3].

Despite these benefits, pets present zoonotic risks, especially for immunocompromised hosts [4-7]. One modeling study in Ontario, Canada found that household pets resulted in higher amounts of Campylobacter exposure than any other [8]. In addition to infection from pets, there have been multiple outbreaks of enteric disease associated with animal exposure in public settings, such as county fairs, farms, and petting zoos [9]. In a review of 55 such outbreaks, most were due to Escherichia coli O157 (58 percent) and Salmonella species (22 percent) [10]. (See "Microbiology, pathogenesis, epidemiology, and prevention of enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC)", section on 'Animal contact'.)

The epidemiology of zoonoses from pets other than dogs and cats will be reviewed here. The epidemiology of dog- and cat-related zoonoses is presented separately and the clinical management of specific zoonotic diseases is discussed in the appropriate topic reviews. (See "Zoonoses from dogs" and "Zoonoses from cats".)


A zoonosis is an animal disease that is transmissible to humans. Humans are usually an accidental host that acquires disease through close contact with an infected animal that may or may not be symptomatic. The most common route of infection related to pet contact is through bites, especially in children [11]. (See "Soft tissue infections due to dog and cat bites".)


Clinicians should ask about pets when taking a medical history and formulating a differential diagnosis. Approximately 68 percent of households in the United States have at least one pet (www.avma.org) [12]. In both the United States and Europe, the most common types of pets include dogs, cats, birds, small mammals, fish, and reptiles [13,14].

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Literature review current through: Dec 2017. | This topic last updated: Oct 24, 2017.
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