Diseases Pets Can Transmit to People

Dog Wearing a Rain PonchoNatural disasters can contribute to the transmission of some diseases. Exposure to inclement weather conditions, stagnant water, wildlife or unfamiliar animals, and overcrowding can put your pet at risk for getting sick. Some of these illnesses can be transmitted to people. Some common disaster-related diseases that pets can pass to people are listed on this page.


Rabies is a virus that affects the nervous system in both animals and people. Rabies is transmitted through bites from rabid animals or through contact with their saliva. To protect you and your pet:

  • Keep your pet up-to-date on rabies vaccine
  • Report any bite wounds to medical personnel immediately
  • Practice safe handling of pets in a stressful situation
  • Keep your pet in a carrier or on a leash
  • Do not allow your pet to interact with other animals


Ringworm is a condition caused by a fungus that can infect skin, hair, and nails of both people and animals. Ringworm is transmitted from animals to people through direct contact with an infected animal's skin or hair or through touching an object where an affected animal has been. To protect your family from ringworm:

  • Wash your hands after touching any animal
  • Do not let your pet interact with other animals
  • Use disinfectant to clean the cage and litter box


Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease found in the urine of infected animals that can cause kidney damage and affect other organs. It is transmitted through contact with infected urine or contaminated water, soil, and food.

  • Talk to your veterinarian about vaccinating your pet for leptospirosis
  • Wash your hands after coming in contact with urine
  • Avoid stagnant water, especially after flooding occurring after natural disasters
  • Don't allow pets to play in or drink contaminated water

Diseases Spread by Mosquitoes, Fleas & Ticks

Mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks are common pests of stray animals and can be a problem immediately following a disaster situation. Their bites irritate the skin and may also carry a variety of diseases (Lyme disease, West Nile virus) harmful to both humans and animals. To prevent illnesses associated with mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks:

  • Keep your pet up-to-date on heartworm and flea and tick preventive treatments
  • Keep your pet away from wildlife and stray animals
  • Wash your pet's bedding regularly

Visit Healthy Pets Healthy People for more information on diseases animals can transmit to humans.

Becoming Separated from Your Pet

What if I am separated from my pet?

  1. Make sure that your family is in a safe location before you begin your search.
  2. If you are in a shelter that houses pets, inform one of the pet caretakers. Give the pet caretaker your pre-made missing pet handout.
  3. Once you have been cleared to leave the shelter and return home, contact animal control about your lost pet.
  4. Last, call the microchip company to make sure all the information about you and your pet is updated and current.