Healthy Pets Healthy People
all original material copyright 1998,
Stephanie Wong

Table of Contents

Health Benefits of Animals to Humans
Immune Compromising Diseases: Who is at risk?
     Brochures, pamphlets, posters and booklets
     Journal Articles
     PAWS Externships


Pets provide unconditional support and love for many people. However, pets can also carry zoonoses, diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans. Over the past ten years, much has been researched about the benefits and risks of pet ownership to immunocompromised persons.

Initially, little was known about pet-related zoonoses, and many health professionals were recommending that people with immunocompromising conditions give up their pets. Today, we know that pets are a minimal risk to immunocompromised persons and that the benefits of animal companionship most often outweigh the danger of zoonoses.

Healthy Pets, Healthy People was created to help answer some of the most common questions about pet ownership by immunocompromised persons. This booklet includes information on diseases that compromise the human immune system, the five pet-related zoonoses of concern, safe pet guidelines, and an extensive list of current resources on the health risks and benefits of pets to immunocompromised persons.

(Special thanks to the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship, Pets Are Wonderful Support and the Humane Society of the United States for their support in producing this project.)

Back to Table of Contents

Health Benefits of Animals to Humans

Although the United States Public Health Service states that pets present only a minimal health risk to immunocompromised persons, sixty percent of HIV-infected pet owners were told by their physicians that they should not own pets.

Current research has demonstrated that pets provide many physical and psychological benefits that outweigh the risks of zoonoses. Caring for a pet results in many physical health benefits. Pets decrease blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels. They reduce morbidity and mortality related to heart disease . Pet ownership can lead to fewer office visits and a reduction in minor health problems.

Pets can provide emotional support at a time when it is most needed. People with immunocompromising diseases can feel isolated and alone. Pets decrease feelings of loneliness and increase feelings of intimacy and constancy.

It is crucial for health professionals to consider the many health benefits that pets provide to immunocompromised persons before making any recommendations about pet ownership.

Back to Table of Contents

Immune Compromising Diseases:
Who is at risk?

All pet owners should be aware that, though the chances are low, their pets can carry infectious diseases that can be transmitted to humans in the household. Persons with the following medical conditions are potentially the most susceptible to pet-related zoonoses:

            alcoholism/liver cirrhosis
            cancer (some)
            chronic renal failure
            congenital immunodeficiencies
            diabetes mellitus
            immunosupressive treatments for:
                autoimmune diseases
                transplant recipients
            long-term hemodialysis

Back to Table of Contents

Resources on Pets and Immuncompromised Persons


Pets Are Wonderful Support - San Francisco (PAWS-SF)
2189 Market Street
San Francisco, CA 94114
(415) 241-1460

Humane Society of the United States (HSUS)
2100 L Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20250
(202) 452-1100

Delta Society
321 Burnett Avenue South, 3rd
Renson, WA 98055
(800) 869-6898

Marin Humane Society - Share Program
171 Bel Marin Keys Boulevard
Novato, CA 94949
(415) 883-4621

Hawaiian Humane Society - Pets Are Loving Support
2700 Waiaiae Avenue
Honolulu, HI 96826
(808) 955-5122

Companion Animal Support and Assistance Network (CASAN)
810 Barret Avenue 266 B
Louisville, KY 40204
(502) 574-5490

Project Inform
1965 Market Street Suite 220
San Francisco, CA 94103
(800) 822-7422

Pet Pals
PO Box 190869
Dallas, TX 75219
(214) 521-5124

Pet Patrol
PO Box 980255
Houston, TX 77098
(713) 522-1954

Pet Are Loving Support (PALS) - Atlanta
1438 Peachtree Street
Atlanta, GA 30309
(404) 876-7457

PALS - Guernville
PO Box 1539
Guernville, CA 95446
(707) 887-2729

Pets Are Wonderful Support - Los Angeles
7221 Santa Monica Boulevard
West Hollywood, CA 90046
(213) 876-7279

PAWS - Chicago
1153 North Dearborn 321
Chicago, IL 60610
(312) 465-3741

PAWS - Orange County
3111 Via Santo Tomas
San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675
(714) 489-2898

PAWS - Philadelphia
PO Box 30262
Philadelphia PA 19103-9998
(215) 985-0206

PAWS - St. Louis
3952 South Grand Avenue
St. Louis, MO 63118
(314) 865-0188

PAWS - San Diego
1278 University Avenue
San Diego, CA 92103
(619) 234-7279

PETS - Washington, D.C.
2001 O Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20009
(202) 234-7387

Pet Support Network
1824 12th Avenue
Seattle, WA 98122
(206) 322-5444

Pet Owners With AIDS/ARC Resource Service (POWARS)
PO Box 1116 Madison Square
New York, NY 10159
(212) 744-0847

POWARS - Baltimore
PO Box 39364
Baltimore, MD 21212
(410) 783-8823

Phinney's Friends - MSPCA
350 South Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02130
(617) 522-7400

Back to Table of Contents

Brochures, pamphlets, posters and booklets

Safe Pet Guidelines - $0.15 each
Pets Are Wonderful Support (PAWS-SF)
PO Box 460487
San Francisco, CA 94146
(415) 241-1460

Your Cat and Your Health - $0.15 each

Your Bird and Your Health - $0.15 each

HIV/AIDS & Pet Ownership
Tuskegee University School of Veterinary Medicine
Tuskegee, AL 36088
(334) 727-8174

Opportunistic Infections and Your Pets - $0.10 each
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
CDC National AIDS Clearinghouse
(800) 458-5231

You Can Prevent Toxoplasmosis - $0.10 each

You Can Prevent Cryptosporidiosis - $0.10 each

What Every Cat Owner Should Know About FIV - $5.00
American Animal Hospital Association
AAHA Press: 12575 West Bayaud Avenue
Lakewood, CO 80228
(206) 463-2033

Animals and AIDS Patients: Action Guide - $16.00
Delta Society
(800) 869-6898

Health Benefits of Animals
Delta Society
(800) 869-6898

Back to Table of Contents


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(800) 458-5231

Project Inform
(800) 822-7422

National AIDS Hotline
(800) 342-2437

Pets Are Wonderful Support:San Francisco
(415) 241-1460

Back to Table of Contents

Journal Articles

USPHS/IDSA Guidelines for the Prevention of Opportunistic Infections, Clinical Infectious Diseases, 21(Suppl 1): S32-43, 1995.

Angulo FJ, CA Glaser et al. Caring for pets of immunocompromised persons, JAVMA, 205(12), December 15, 1994.

Angulo FJ, DL Swerdlow, Bacterial Enteric Infections in Persons Infected with HIV, Clinical Infectious Diseases 21(Suppl 1): S84-93, 1995.

Angulo FJ, K Gorczyca et al, Pets: Benefits may outweigh risks for people with AIDS, but, Journal of the Physicians Association for AIDS Care, November 1994.

Gorczyca K, Pets and the Immunocompromised Patient, Syntex Journal Rounds, pp.4-7.

Langley RL, WE Morrow, More on Pets and Immunocompromised Persons, JAVMA 206(5):592, March 1, 1995.

PlautM, EM Zimmerman et al, Health Hazards to Humans Associated with Domestic Pets, Annu Rev Public Health 17:221-245.

Spencer L, Opening Doors for the Immunocompromised, JAVMA 205(12):1641-1642, December 15, 1994.

Back to Table of Contents


Living with HIV and Pets - $25.00
produced by the
Latham Foundation
Pets Are Wonderful Support: San Francisco
PO Box 460487
San Francisco, CA 94146-0487
(415) 241-1460

Our Pets, Our Health - $10.95
Delta Society
(800) 869-6898

Back to Table of Contents


Epidemiology Fact Sheet
Topics: Campylobacteriosis, Cat Scratch Disease, Cryptosporidiosis, Giardia, Psittacosis, Salmonellosis

Feral Cats: Zoonoses
Topics: cat zoonoses

Iowa Health Book: Infectious Diseases
Topics: Campylobacteriosis, Giardia, Salmonellosis

Pets Are Loving Support (PALS) - Sonoma County, California
Topics: pets and HIV, adopting pets, the human-animal bond

Pets Are Wonderful Support - San Francisco (PAWS-SF)
Topics: services, resources, Safe Pet Guidelines and pet-related zoonoses

The Complete Canadian Health Guide: Zoonoses, Diseases from Pets
Topics: Rabies, Cat Scratch Disease, Salmonellosis, Psittacosis, Fish Tank Disease, Ringworm, roundworms, Toxoplasmosis

The Delta Society
Topics: Human-Animal Bond, pet assisted therapy, educational materials, action guides, resources

Zoonoses and You: Something to be Concerned About
Topics: Cat zoonoses

Zoonosis Control
Topics: general list

Zoonotic Disease: Office of Research, UCSB
Topics: general list

Back to Table of Contents

Paws Externships

Two Externships    Pets Are Wonderful Support (PAWS) is offering two one-month externships for veterinary students in 2000 in cooperation with "Healthy Pets, Healthy People" project developed by Stephanie Wong, Tufts '99. Both externs will receive $1000 stipends for travel and expenses. In addition to the one month in San Francisco, we will try to obtain funds to send each student to a national medical or veterinary conference to staff the "Healthy Pets, Healthy People"/PAWS booth. Externs will get first-hand experience in an AIDS non-profit group with an emphasis on public health and the Human-Animal Bond. Externs will work on the PAWS website, answer phone questions about zoonoses, staff the PAWS booth at local meetings, give a community lecture, and can have the opportunity to volunteer at the local SPCA or Pets Unlimited to help with PAWS clients.
For more information, contact Ilana Strubel, DVM at 415-241-1460 or E-mail at Check the website at for more information on PAWS.

Back to Table of Contents