It sounds like such a silly question to ask. But not so much when you consider what’s been in the news: A dog in Spain was euthanized this week because his owner, Teresa Romero, has the Ebola virus, and authorities worried she might have passed the disease to him. (Many are up in arms because of their decision, wondering why the dog wasn’t simply quarantined.)
While it wasn't known whether or not the dog, Excalibur, did indeed have the disease, one study from 2005 found that dogs can be infected with the Ebola virus, but may not show symptoms. Ebola is passed through blood and bodily fluids (like urine, saliva, sweat, feces, and vomit), so dogs would potentially get the virus in the same way. Though as Time.com reports, there are no known cases of dogs spreading Ebola to humans.
That said, when it comes to more common illnesses like the flu or a cold, you can’t pass those on to your pooch.
“Typically you’d be more likely to get sick from your dog, than the other way around,” says Heather Bjornebo, DVM, a veterinarian in Tempe, Arizona.
For the most part, animals have their own set of diseases, but there are some “zoonotic diseases”—those spread between animals and humans—like the West Nile virus, E. coli, and Ebola. But your biggest health risk from a dog is coming in contact with a parasite it has—and cases of that are rare.
Even so, it’s important for dog owners with compromised immune systems or who have small children to wash their hands thoroughly and frequently, Bjornebo advises, as should everyone. Now if only dogs knew how to wash their paws.
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