The close contact between household pets and people offers favourable conditions for bacterial transmission. In this article, the aetiology, prevalence, transmission, impact on human health and preventative measures are summarized for selected bacterial zoonoses transmissible by household pets. Six zoonoses representing distinct transmission routes were selected arbitrarily based on the available information on incidence and severity of pet-associated disease caused by zoonotic bacteria: bite infections and cat scratch disease (physical injuries), psittacosis (inhalation), leptospirosis (contact with urine), and campylobacteriosis and salmonellosis (faecal–oral ingestion). Antimicrobial resistance was also included due to the recent emergence of multidrug-resistant bacteria of zoonotic potential in dogs and cats. There is a general lack of data on pathogen prevalence in the relevant pet population and on the incidence of human infections attributable to pets. In order to address these gaps in knowledge, and to minimize the risk of human infection, actions at several levels are recommended, including: (1) coordinated surveillance of zoonotic pathogens and antimicrobial resistance in household pets, (2) studies to estimate the burden of human disease attributable to pets and to identify risk behaviours facilitating transmission, and (3) education of those in charge of pets, animal caretakers, veterinarians and human medical healthcare practitioners on the potential zoonotic risks associated with exposure to pets. Disease-specific recommendations include incentives to undertake research aimed at the development of new diagnostic tests, veterinary-specific antimicrobial products and vaccines, as well as initiatives to promote best practices in veterinary diagnostic laboratories and prudent antimicrobial usage.