Loving your pet is one thing and allowing it to lick your face or not following hygiene habits after pet contact could be quite another. Researchers have warned that all household pets can transmit infection to people, especially those with weak immune systems, young children, pregnant women and seniors.

"Patients at high risk of infection and their households should have increased vigilance of their pets’ health and take precautions to reduce pathogen transmission," said Jason Stull, assistant professor at Ohio State University in the US.

All pets can transmit diseases to people. For instance, dogs, cats, rodents, reptiles and amphibians can transmit Salmonella, multi-drug resistant bacteria (including Clostridium difficile), Campylobacter jejuni and other diseases. Parasites such as hookworm, roundworm and Toxoplasma can also be transmitted.

Infection can be contracted from bites, scratches, saliva and contact with feces. Reptiles and amphibians can transmit disease indirectly, such as via contaminated surfaces, the review study pointed out.

The authors recommended that wearing protective gloves to clean aquariums, cages and remove feces, proper handwashing after pet contact, discouraging pets from face licking, covering playground boxes when not in use and avoiding contact with exotic animals could help reduce transmission of infection.

Certain other simple steps that could dramatically reduce the risks are: regular cleaning and disinfection of animal cages, feeding areas and bedding; locating litter boxes away from areas where eating and food preparation occur; waiting to acquire a new pet until immune status has improved and regularly scheduling veterinary visits for all pets.

The study appeared in Canadian Medical Association Journal.