Dog on Couch with Books and Drink Cropped

Pets and Human Illness

Dog on Couch with Books and DrinkConcerned that Fido might catch your yucky winter cold? Or that petting Kitty could spread your nasty flu germs to others in your household? When we’re coughing and sneezing, we know to stay away from other people. But do you need to stay away from your pet, too? Not at all, say preventive medicine experts at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. In fact, “pet therapy” might be just what a doctor would order.

Your four-legged friends won’t catch your cold or flu, they say. Nor is it likely they’ll spread it. Instead, it’s surfaces like the hands of an infected person and doorknobs that you both touch that will lead to your getting these cold-weather maladies. And breathing the air around a sick human being—not your pet—is another culprit in spreading these sicknesses.

So, unless your immune system isn’t strong and your human doctor’s told you otherwise, your pet’s not in danger of getting or spreading your cold or flu. On the other hand, the comfort your pet gives you might be as nice as Mom’s chicken soup. If your pet makes you feel better or rest more easily, go for it. Research even shows that pets provide an important source of healthy social stimulation that can boost your spirits. That can be important if you’re sick for days, and are isolating yourself from family and friends.

And here’s a “trick” to consider when you’re feeling better: train your dog to fetch bottles of water or other healthy drinks for you. So the next time you’re laid up in bed or on the couch, Fido can really play caregiver to help you get back on your feet.

Watch for an upcoming post on diseases your pet actually might spread… and how to avoid them.

Has your pet helped a family member through an illness? Share your story!

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