Pets may transmit antibiotic-resistant infections to humans, scientists believe.
Professor Nigel French at Massey University in New Zealand said the increasing use of antibiotics in animals may be contributing to the global issue of antimicrobial resistance.
French is the principal investigator of a three-year research which is studying whether pets can transmit antibiotic-resistant infections to humans.
"We will be looking at the risks pets may pose in the transmission of these bacterial diseases that have been identified by the World Health Organisation as a huge and growing public issue," French said.
He said there is concern about an increase in the incidence of two particular types of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in New Zealand that commonly cause urinary tract infections.
French said the resistant infections have been found in most household pets and the bacteria is spread by fluids and faeces.
"Animals clean their backside by licking it, so they can get faecal contamination in their mouth and then lick humans. That's how the infection could be transmitted," French said.
"It underlines what most people already know - you shouldn't let your dog lick your face. If the dog licks your hands you should wash your hands afterwards. It's basically hand-hygiene and avoiding too intimate contact with your pet," French said.