In the U.S., dog and cat bites make up about 1 percent of emergency room visits every year, and the numbers are similar in Europe.
Roughly 60 percent of animal bites are by dogs; the cost to treat them exceeds $1 billion per year. Between 10 and 20 percent of animal bites are attributed to cats.
Severe infections can occur in about 20 percent of all dog and cat bites, the researchers said.
When bitten, hands are the most parts of the body to develop infections, as well as to develop rapidly spreading and disabling damage. In fact, between 30 and 40 percent of these hand bites become infected.
But pet lovers need not worry about handling their pets, as spreading the germ in this way is relatively rare.
"Petting or handling pets will not result in infection very easily," McGill said, adding that keeping pets clean, maintaining immunizations and controlling parasites "will go a long ways to keeping the pet and owner healthy."
This article was developed in collaboration with ABC News.