Can a dog spread disease to someone who is HIV-positive?

Dr. Barchas, My partner has HIV. He was at his doctor's office for a checkup the other day, and his doctor told him that we...

Dr. Eric Barchas  |  Jul 5th 2007


Dr. Barchas,

My partner has HIV. He was at his doctor’s office for a checkup the other day, and his doctor told him that we should find a new home for our Lab mix Buddy. He said Buddy might spread disease to my partner. My partner is not sick, but he is HIV positive. Can Buddy really make him ill? We love our dog and do not want to give him up. He gives us so much love and happiness.

Tom
Los Angeles, CA

I disagree with your partners doctor. Strongly. And I am not the only one. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which is the preeminent and most widely respected authority on these sorts of matters says the following:

“You do NOT have to give up your pet.” (emphasis theirs)

This is the first line of the CDC brochure outlining their recommendations on pet ownership for people with HIV. I suggest that you read the entire page. Its website address is below.

http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/pubs/brochure/oi_pets.htm

Now, with that out of the way, there are some issues to consider. First, for any attorneys who may be reading, I must emphasize that this article (and all of my articles on Dogster and Catster) is intended strictly for informational purposes. Under no circumstances should this information be substituted for live consultation with a practicing veterinarian or physician.

Furthermore, under certain circumstances, Buddy could be capable of spreading disease to your partner. The greatest risk comes from certain parasites and bacteria. However, if you keep Buddy free of disease and parasites, the risk to your partner is almost nil. Healthy cats and dogs pose very little risk to people with compromised immune systems. Your veterinarian can make specific recommendations on how to best keep Buddy healthy and parasite-free.

Also, immune-compromised people who are sick (such as people suffering from AIDS) have different needs, and the recommendations in this article do not apply to them. However, most of these people can and should keep their pets as well.

You mentioned that your partner is not sick. However, there is a chance his doctor knows something about his condition upon which he is basing the recommendation to give up Buddy. I recommend that you get a second opinion. Be sure to print out the CDC article to take to the appointment.

There is a final matter to consider. Pets make people happy. Happiness improves the function of the immune system. Therefore, consider the possibility that keeping Buddy in your lives will actually make your partner more healthy, not less.