is it safe to cuddle with your pet when you’re sick?

is it safe to cuddle with your pet when you’re sick?
Posted by Dr. Kim Smyth on Mar 14 2016

When we think about disease or illness transmission between animals and people, it’s more often that we’re thinking about what pets can give to us, such as ringworm, rather than the potential for humans to spread something to animals.

However, when you’re down and out with an illness and your dog curls right up with you to act as your nursemaid, you may start to grow a little seed in your mind that, in the thick of your fever, grows into a giant question... is it safe to snuggle with your pet when you are sick?

Can you spread sickness to your pet?

In most cases, no, you cannot spread sickness to your pet and your pet is probably safe.

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Most articles about transferring illnesses to pets have mentioned that cold and flu viruses can’t spread from pets to people, and they also imply that our pets are safe from our strains, too. While it’s true that we can’t catch influenza from our pets, the reverse is not true. Our pets, especially cats and ferrets, are susceptible to certain types of influenza, although transmission is rare. 

One exception is if you are sick with COVID-19. Because it is a rapidly changing situation and It appears that the virus that causes COVID-19 can spread from people to animals, the CDC recommends that people who are sick with COVID-19 avoid contact with pets and other animals, wear a cloth face covering and wash your hands before and after you interact with them.

COVID-19 is not the only concern. We can also spread other diseases, like MRSA and E. coli, to our pets. The term for this is reverse zoonosis — when animals contract illness from humans. Like I said, considering how often humans get sick from animals, reverse zoonosis is rare.

If you’re feeling under the weather and your pet wants to snuggle you back to health, go ahead. There’s nothing quite like the comfort of a warm, cuddly pet in bed while you convalesce.

Just keep in mind that the risk is there, albeit very, very small, of spreading illness, so continue to practice good hand washing and for pet’s sake, avoid sneezing or coughing in their adorable little faces.

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