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Can My Pet Get the Flu?

It's flu season: what does that mean for pets?

Dr. Melissa Kennedy, a veterinary virologist at the UT College of Veterinary Medicine, answered a few questions about different influenzas and pets.


Can my dogs or cats catch the flu from me?


MK: The H1N1 vaccine that emerged in 2009 is still circulating in people. It has been included in this year's seasonal flu vaccine for people. This particular virus has shown the ability to infect dogs, cats, and ferrets, and at least in cats and ferrets, serious disease can result.


How common is it for animals to catch the flu from humans?


MK: It is very uncommon. With most other seasonal flu cases, infection of animals from humans doesnt often occur. But the 2009 H1N1 seemed to be able to infect other animals a bit more easily than other flu strains.


What should I do to protect them?


MK: Routine precautions like one takes with their kids--a lot of hand washing, cover your mouth when sneezing or coughing, and no snuggling with the pets when you are ill.


Will the flu vaccine for my dog protect it?


MK: No the canine flu vaccine is for a different influenza, H3N8. It is specific to dogs and horses. It is important for dogs that board frequently, or otherwise comingle with other dogs frequently. It's not seasonal like ours.  The risk comes from being around other infected dogs. This vaccine will not protect against the H1N1.


How do I know if my pet has the flu?


MK: You may not get a firm diagnosis, but the symptoms are not unlike ours-- lethargy, fever, decreased appetite, perhaps a cough or nasal discharge.


What should I do?


MK: If you suspect your animal is ill, take him or her to their regular veterinarian. If someone in your family is ill with the flu at that time, be sure to let your veterinarian know.


What about birds and horses?


MK: To date, no transmission of our seasonal flu strains, including the 2009 H1N1 , to horses or birds has been documented. I never say never when it comes to viruses though! A few years ago, we found a seasonal flu strain infecting some Giant Anteaters at a zoo, so you just never know.














Posted: 01-06-11 Viewed: 14326 times

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Sandra Harbison
College of Veterinary Medicine
University of Tennessee
2407 River Drive
Knoxville, TN 37996

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