Skip to content

Zoonotic Diseases in Pets

Pets can be important parts of our families and when they are well taken care of a pet can offer health benefits such as providing companionship, increasing exercise, and bringing happiness to our lives. Having a pet can also increase our exposure to some zoonotic diseases so it is important to understand how to take care of your pet in order to keep them and yourself healthy and happy.

Before bringing a pet home it is important to do some research and make sure the animal will fit in well with you and their environment. Answering the following questions before adopting a pet will ensure you and your pet are the right fit for each other. 

  • Are pets allowed where I am living?
  • How long will this pet live? 
  • What does the pet eat and how often do they need to eat?  
  • How big will the pet get? 
  • What type of habitat does the pet need? 
  • How often do I need to clean the pet’s habitat? 
  • Do I have the time, money, and energy to properly care for and clean up after the pet? 

Some people have a higher risk of getting really sick if their pets have a zoonotic disease. The following groups of people should take greater care to stay healthy around their pets or should reconsider owning certain types of pets that are more vulnerable to diseases such as turtles and rodents.  

  • Children younger than 5 should not have pet reptiles, amphibians, or backyard poultry because the harmful germs spread between these animals and young children can make them very sick. 
  • People who are already sick and have a weakened immune system should do research on the types of pets that would be safe to have. They can also ask their doctor for recommendations.  
  • Pregnant women should not adopt a new cat or be around stray cats, especially kittens. If you are pregnant, you do not need to give up your current cat, but you should avoid handling cat litter. 
  • Pregnant women should not be around pet rodents to prevent exposure to viruses which can cause birth defects. If you’re pregnant and have a pet rodent, avoid direct contact and have someone else clean its habitat. 

What should I do if I have been bitten or scratched by a pet? 

  • Have an adult help you do the following: 
    • If the skin is not broken, wash the area with soap and water. 
    • For all wounds where the skin has been broken by animal teeth or claws, see your doctor as soon as possible.  
      • The animal bite will need to be reported by your doctor to the local animal control authority/local health authority.  
      • Your doctor will check out your wound and provide care. 
      • You doctor will check on your need for a tetanus shot. 
      • You doctor will check on your need for rabies shots. 
    • Check your risk for rabies by doing the following:  
      • Try to confirm that the animal’s rabies vaccination is up to date and collect the information to give to your doctor. 
    • If the bite or scratch was caused by a wild animal, click here for more information.

Instructions for parents or adults: 

  • If the skin is not broken or you do not seek medical care, you should still call your local animal control to report a bite from an animal.  
  • For additional information contact your local health authority.  
    • If you live in Clark County:
      • Southern Nevada Health District (SNHD)
        • Call 702-759-1300 (24 hours)
    • If you live in Washoe County:
      • Washoe County Health District (WCHD)
        • Call 775-328-2447 (24 hours)
    • If you live in Carson City, Douglas or Lyon County:
      • Carson City Health & Human Services (CCHHS)
        • Call 775-887-2190
    • If you live in any of the other counties:
      • Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health (DPBH)
        • Call 775-684-5911 (M-F 8am to 5pm) or 775-400-0333 (after hours)

Click here for an activity and coloring book on preventing dog bites for youth. 

Click here to go to CDC’s interactive website to educate youth on rabies. 

Other Resources

  • For Information on how to stay healthy around small pets click here 
  • For information on how to stay healthy around reptiles and amphibians click here 
  • Five things to do right after visiting animals such as at a petting zoo or farm click here.
  • How to be safe around animals click here.
  • The trouble with tiny turtles educational poster:  
    • For the english version click here.
    • Para la version en espanol haga clic aqui.
  • Always Wash Your Hands After Handling Backyard Poultry Imagery: 
    • For the english version click here.
    • Para la version en espanol haga clic aqui
  • For more educational materials from CDC click here