Many people enjoy cuddling their pets. They should be aware, however, that they risk infecting themselves with an illness, be the object of their affection a dog, a cat or an exotic variety of snake.
"Pet owners ought to know that pets can definitely be hazardous," says Klaus Osterrieder, managing director of the department of veterinary medicine at the Institute of Virology at Berlin's Free University.
Although zoonoses - infectious diseases transmissible from vertebrate animals to humans - are much more frequent in livestock, pets can also be a source of infection.
One possible problem is a fungal skin infection. Particularly in rural areas, dogs and cats can become infected by livestock and then pass the fungus on to people, explains Professor Ingo Nolte of the University of Veterinary Medicine in Hanover.
A pet with a fungal skin infection is easily recognizable. "Round bald spots in its fur are a symptom," notes Nolte, who says the ailment is easily treatable and not serious.
Fleas are not serious either, but they are a big nuisance. "Cat fleas are the most common," Nolte remarks. Dogs can transmit mite infections, such as pseudoscabies, which, Nolte says, results in itching and reddened skin that "lasts a few days and then usually goes away by itself".