Zoonosis are infectious deseases of animals that can be transmitted to humans.

Zoonosis can be caused by different  pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites.

A human can also  infect animals, it is called reverse zoonosis.

Different types of zoonosis:

Professional zoonosis:

The human is contaminated during his professional activity in contact with live animals, their dead bodies, carcasses or derived products. They belong to the list of "Occupational Diseases" (rabies, leptospirosis, tularemia, dermatophytosis, tuberculosis ...).

Accidental zoonosis:

The contamination  is difficult to predict (rabies following a bite, for example).

Recreational zoonosis:

The contamination occurs through non-occupational activity (leptospirosis following swimming in polluted water, tularemia for a hunter ...).


Familial zoonosis:

They are transmitted to humans by a pet in the familial house (ringworm, chlamydophilosis, salmonellosis, lymphocytic choriomeningitis, etc).

Rabbit in arm

Exotic pets are concerned mainly with family zoonotic diseases, but also by occupational and professional zoonosis.

Means of contamcination

The contamination pathways are those described usually for infections:

  • Direct contact: with animals, with the contaminated environment, animal droppings .

  • Inoculations: during trauma (scratches, bites, etc)

  • Ingestion: of infectious agents (hand-to-mouth or pet-to-mouth contact)

  • Inhalation: of infectious agents.

Risk factors:


Small mammals

  • direct contact with the animal: parasitic diseases constitute the main risks

  • contact with fecal matter or secretions
  • bites, scratches, flea or tick bites


  • the environment is the main source of contamination: inhalation of feather  and droppings dust. 

  • contact with droppings
  • contact with nasal and ocular secretions
  • scratches

Reptiles and fish

  • danger by themselves by direct contact

  • danger by their environment, especially by water containing infectious pathogens.

Close contact between the owner and his animal:

Their relationship are often anthropomorphic. That causes behaviours which should be avoided: embrace a parrot on the beak, let rabbits, rodents or ferrets or even reptiles to have access to the bedroom, even less to bed, ...).

Hygiene of the living environment of the pet:

It's decisive (cage, aviary, terrarium). The level of knowledge of the animal owner regarding the physiological needs of the animal and the ideal conditions of detention is also very important.


Compliance with simple hygiene rules:

  • hand washing,

  • no eating, no drinking, no smoking when caring for the animal or cleaning its environment.

See Hygiene course, especially hygiene of housing at home and at the clinic.

Provenance of the animal:

The subjects coming from farms or individuals present a risk different from the wild specimens taken in their natural environment (parrots, reptiles, small exotic mammals ...).

  • the animal taken in the natural environment carry most of the time exotic infectious agents.
  • animals from breeding  carry rather classical infectious agents, which are possibly selected by the  use, reasonable or not, of anti-infectious drugs (antibiotics for example).