It can be quite the paradox when we’re feeling under the weather. On the one hand, we feel wretched and want to be left alone – but on the other, the comfort of a warm body to keep us company is hugely welcome.
Friends, partners, and spouses wisely keep a safe distance from us while we’re incubating germs, especially when it’s a stomach virus – that leads to sights and sounds that are no fun for anybody. How about your canine companions, though? Every instinct in our bodies will be to take care of our pets and shower them with affection when they’re under the weather, but is it safe to do so?
This article will take a look at how best to take care of a dog that is feeling unwell, and fill you in on the risks to your health that come from such an activity. Rest assured, you’ll be armed with enough information to ensure that everybody’s needs are met by the time you finish reading.
Table of Contents:
Can You Get Sick from Your Dog?
OK, let’s deal with the elephant in the room first of all and discuss whether it’s possible to grow sick because you have spent time in close proximity to a poorly pooch. Yes, you can – but not every condition that plagues a dog can be passed onto a human.
Sicknesses that can be passed from animals to humans are known as zoonotic diseases.
Some examples of these conditions include:
- Lyme Disease
- Ringworm and Hookworm
- Weil’s Disease (Leptospirosis)
As you’ll see, these are not conditions to be trifled with or ignored! Thankfully, there are also extremely rare in the western world, and you’re unlikely to contract any of them yourself.
You’ll also notice that influenza is missing from this list, as this particular problem is species-specific. In the case of a dog, influenza takes the form of kennel cough, which can’t infect a human. If your poor pooch is coughing, wheezing and sneezing, don’t stay away when your pet needs you most. You’ll be safe from catching this particular strain of the sickness.
How are Zoonotic Diseases Passed from Animal to Human?
There are four primary ways that human could be struck down by a zoonotic disease that originated with an animal.
- Contact. This involves touching the animal in some way, such as stroking or hand feeding the critter, being bitten or scratched by the creature’s teeth or claws, or handling (or ingesting, though we can’t for the life of us imagine why this would come up!) their urine or feces.
- Environment. You may also be at risk of infection of you spend a prolonged period of time in the environment or habitat of animals that carry a zoonotic disease. This could include cleaning out a fish tank or coop or even digging into soil that previously hosted the animals.
- Parasite Bites. If you’re bitten by a tick, mosquito, flea or any other pest that previous feasted upon a sick animal, you could be exposed to the condition in question. This is especially likely in the case of worms, which could set up home in your own body thanks to the parasitic bugs carrying the relevant larvae.
- Spoiled Food. It’s very rare, but spoiled food can sometimes pass on a zoonotic illness. This is usually due to feces or urine from an animal that carries the sickness making its way into the food, which will not have been appropriately cleaned. As we have said though, this is very rare so don’t panic and begin swearing that you’ll never visit Whole Foods again.
Outbreaks of zoonotic diseases in humans are very rare, so unless you have prolonged exposure to animals as part of your job you’re unlikely to have anything to worry about. The average household pet won’t be struggling with most of these illnesses, so there’s no need to don a pair of safety gloves before stroking your dog.
Just be vigilant about any potential exposure if, for any reason, it becomes a possibility – especially among older people, younger children or anybody with a weak immune system.
Is Dog Gastro Contagious to Humans?
Gastric flu bugs are particularly nasty and can spread like wildfire among humans due to their highly contagious nature. If you’re wondering if you can catch a stomach bug from your dog, the answer is… probably.
A contagious gastrointestinal bug is typically known as norovirus. An epidemic of this condition swept the globe back in 2015, and scientific research at this time suggested that dogs could too be susceptible to the condition. This means that humans could potentially pass on a stomach bug to their dogs, but how about the other way around? No official research has confirmed that this is the case, but there is no reason to believe that it’s not the case.
The symptoms of a gastrointestinal bug include:
- Sudden Weight Loss.
- Cramps and Muscle Pain.
If you are displaying any of these symptoms, stay away from your dog as much as possible – and stay away from any humans, too, as you’re a breeding ground for contagious germs! The same also applies if your dog is seemingly struck down by a gastric upset, as there is every chance that you could catch the condition and end up feeling as sick as a dog (sorry not sorry).
However, you won’t be able to stay away completely; you will need to get your dog to a vet outside of their quarantine. Norovirus could leave your dog dehydrated, which is potentially very dangerous. Check out our guide to what to do if your dog is dehydrated in the meantime so you can administer the appropriate first aid.
My Dog and I Both Have Diarrhea
If you are perched on the toilet struggling with a bout of diarrhea and hear the telltale whine from your dog that they have a bathroom emergency of their own, it’s understandable that you may have some suspicions. This is for a good reason; the answer to the question, “is it possible to catch diarrhea from a dog?” is a very firm yes.
This instance is one of the only instances where zoonotic diseases are comparatively commonplace. If you’ve touched the fecal matter of an infected dog that is living with a condition such as salmonella, you’ll need to wash and disinfect your hands ASAP. That may sound silly – after all, it’s not like you make a habit of sculpting modern art masterpieces from your dog’s poop – but you’d be amazed at how far and wide the germs from excrement can spread.
To be on the safe side, always carry a hand sanitizer with you when you’re taking a dog for a walk and use it as soon as you bag up a dog poop. This way, should you absentmindedly touch your eyes, nose or mouth afterward, you won’t be leaving yourself quite as open to the risk of developing the same sickness. It’s particularly important that you clean yourself up before you handle food.
Incidentally, it’s not just dogs that you have to be careful of here. Handling other animals, especially small critters such as hamsters or mice or lizards will expose you to salmonella much faster than dog waste. If you have multiple pets in your home, make sure that your hygiene game is on point!
Is a Dog Stomach Flu Contagious to Other Dogs?
A dog passing their illnesses onto humans is comparatively rare but possible. A dog passing their sickness onto their pooch playmates, however, is very, very common.
A kennel cough is the most obvious example of this, as this condition spreads around dogs as quickly, easily and ruthlessly as the common cold does among humans. A vaccine for this condition will be available from your vet (it’s taken by inhaling through the nose rather than an injection into the scruff of the neck like most vaccines), but it’s not compulsory and thus won’t be covered by any generic vaccination package.
A kennel cough is not the only ailment that can strike down a canine, however; there are several sicknesses that dogs can pass onto a fellow pooch that shares a house, or enjoys a play in the local park. These include:
- Parvovirus, which is a very nasty gastric virus that infects puppies. With severe diarrhea and vomiting among the most prominent symptoms of this condition, both of which can be extremely dangerous, it’s critical that you get your pup vaccinated as soon as you are able.
- Weil’s Disease, better known as Leptospirosis, was mentioned as a zoonotic disease earlier in this article but it spreads just as quickly between dogs – especially their urine. Another dog’s pee smells as sweet as a rose to most canines, so you’ll have to be vigilant if your dog shows any signs of the condition (which include jaundiced coloring, in addition to the usual gastric concerns).
- Hepatitis can impact dogs as much as humans, and it can be passed on through saliva and other bodily functions. If your dog is a lover or a fighter, and prone to getting up close and personal with other canines, you’ll have to be careful about this disease.
- Canine Distemper is a frightening condition that leads to aggressive behavior and seizures, often culminating in a fatality. Thankfully it’s rare nowadays, but all the same, it’s highly contagious and should be vaccinated against – especially seeing as gastric problems are primary symptoms of the condition.
- Ringworm isn’t a parasitic worm but is rather named because of the circular markings that it leaves on the body of a dog (or human). Most healthy adult hounds will be immune to this particularly nasty condition, but if your dog is young, old or otherwise weakened, and exposed to prolonged contact with another animal that has the problem (within a kennel, for example), it may well be passed on.
We can’t wrap our dogs in cotton wool, as much as we might like to, and our pets will get out there experience the world for themselves. This means that every now and again, they will encounter fellow canines that are not in optimum physical condition. As long as we remain on top of vaccinating our dogs, however, they should enjoy sufficiently robust immune systems and fight off any attempt to making them sick!
How to Look After a Dog That Has a Stomach Virus
A dog with a gastric problem is going to be left feeling very sorry for themselves, so they’ll need plenty of rest and TLC. More importantly, however, they’ll have to see a vet at the initial onset of the problem in case there is something sinister afoot. In addition to serious medical concerns, some norovirus symptoms can stem from a dog eating a foreign object that has become trapped in their digestive tract, and surgical intervention will be needed.
Thankfully, that is rare – what is more likely is that your dog will need to let the virus work through his or her body and ride it out, possibly with the aid of medication. The treatment process for you as a pet owner will be similar to that of when your dog has diarrhea but is acting normal and eating.
That means no food or water for 12 hours. Don’t feed your dog for 12 hours since their last episode, and if they vomit or suffer from diarrhea at any point, start that 12-hour clock again. Don’t panic as you’re not being cruel – dogs can fast for several days, and you’re giving their stomach a chance to recover. When your dog is ready to eat again, keep things very bland and only offer food in small amounts. If your dog is prone to wolfing down their meals quickly, consider hand feeding or offering multiple servings in a very small bowl.
Fido will need to hydrate though, especially if he’s losing fluid through vomit and diarrhea, so supply a steady stream of ice cubes for him to lick and crunch on. Your vet may also decide that your pooch requires intravenous fluids. You should follow the lead of a professional in this instance.
Once the vet has given you the all clear to bring your dog home, allow them to get plenty of rest – that’s the only way they’ll conquer any virus. Your dog will still need the occasional walk for exercise, but don’t push them too hard. There may also be accidents in the house, so it might be in your best interests to lay down a handful of puppy pads. Consider moving their bed to a quiet room away from the rest of the family, too – partly so your dog can rest peacefully without being disturbed, and partly just in case, their condition is contagious.
Your dog should start to perk up after a few days – a dog stomach virus is usually intense but mercifully short. If Fido doesn’t appear to be feeling any better after 48 hours, get back in touch with your vet again. Further tests and examinations may be necessary.
Medications for a Dog That Has a Stomach Virus
The first thing that you should know about a dog with a stomach problem is that Imodium is not necessarily the answer. Smaller dogs, in particular, are extremely sensitive to this drug, and the side effects could leave them feeling worse than ever before. On top of this, Imodium may end up constipating a dog with diarrhea – that is a whole new problem for Fido to content with.
Instead of Imodium, consider settling your dog’s gastric problems with a little Pepto Bismol – the tablets are better than the liquid in this instance. However, never administer human medication to a dog without first speaking to a vet about the appropriate dosage.
It’s more likely that your vet will prescribe some canine-centric drugs to help your hound feel better. These may take the shape of steroids, antibiotics or anything else that a professional deems to be necessary.
Will My Dog Make Me Sick By Licking My Face?
As we discussed while we were talking about zoonotic diseases, if your dog is unwell they may pass something unpleasant onto you through licking your face. However, a healthy dog showing their affection by coating your cheeks with kisses will not leave you at risk of coming down with something.
There are a lot of myths that surround dog saliva, often surrounding both ends of the spectrum. Firstly, don’t buy into the legend that a dog’s saliva will cure any possible ailment. While some cultures still celebrate canines for the supposed medical benefits found within their mouths, don’t neglect a doctor’s appointment in favor of allowing your dog to slobber over you.
However, dog saliva is not necessarily any worse than its human equivalent. On the one hand, you wouldn’t necessarily consider it to be a good thing of one of your friends leaped upon you and started to lick, but on the other, you wouldn’t necessarily race to the ER straight afterward either.
The most significant risk to human health that stems from a dog licking us is a bacterial infection. If you’re asking why your dog has bad breath suddenly, don’t get too up close and personal to find out – your pooch may have all kinds of live bacteria growing in their mouth that would love to get stuck into a human host.
If you’re going to allow your pet to lick your face, you should learn how to brush a dog’s teeth. You should also avoid letting your dog lick around your mouth or any open cuts or sores and keep older, younger or otherwise sickly people away from Fido’s slobbery attention. A less potent immune system will struggle to manage with foreign bacteria.
Can Dogs Make Other Pets Sick?
As we have already explained, a flu bug can’t be passed on from a dog to a human (or vice versa) – and the same goes for other animals in your house, as flu is species-specific. However, cats can struggle with a feline version of a kennel cough that can be caught by spending time with a family dog.
The biggest risk of infection between dogs and cats are parasites. Fleas and ticks, for example, will look for a warm body to attach themselves to, and they won’t be fussy about the species. Similarly, worms can be passed on from one pet to another.
If your dog and cat prone to fighting like… well, like cat and dog, you may also need to be careful about bacteria being passed on through bites and scratches. Luckily, all of this can be avoided by taking the appropriate preventative measures – by keeping the animals separate, and ensuring that both pets are wormed regularly and get their flea drops.
It’s tricky to remain confident when suffering from a stomach bug or similar ailment, but try not to worry too much – dogs are humans are different enough that you don’t necessarily need to worry about harming your pet with your germs. After all, your dog is still going to expect attention, feeding and walks, no matter how under the weather you may be feeling.
If it’s your dog that’s struggling with a stomach bug, you should likewise remain vigilant about taking care of them and making sure that their needs are being met. This will be a frightening and vulnerable time for your canine companion, so keeping a distance through paranoia and wearing a Michael Jackson-style face mask every time you come near them will only extend their period of ill health by adding an extra layer of stress.
Nobody – whether human or hound – enjoys being sick, but its sadly a fact of life. If you follow these guidelines, however, both you and your pet will be back on your feet in no time at all.