Pets and the Swine Flu

A thirteen year old Iowa cat answered the question that many concerned pet owners have been asking: “can pets catch illnesses from us?” The kitty came down with swine flu, proving that the illness in fact can be transmitted from humans to animals. The diagnosis surprised veterinarians and medical experts who didn’t previously believe that cats or dogs were susceptible to human flu viruses. No dogs have yet been diagnosed, so researchers are uncertain whether the virus can also be transmitted to dogs. However, it appears that ferrets, pigs and domestic turkeys are also susceptible to the virus, so it is possible that dogs will be as well.

The virus causes a runny nose and other flu symptoms. In humans with weak immune systems, such as children or the elderly, swine flu can even be deadly. The fear thus exists that it could also lead to respiratory distress or death in cats or dogs if they do in fact come down with the illness. No one wants to see their pet memorialized in a cat urnor dog urn any sooner then absolutely necessary, so cautious owners will want to be aware of the potential dangers and watch their pets for signs of swine flu.

Vets warn that people should not automatically jump to the conclusion that a runny nose or other sign of the flu is caused by the H1N1 virus in pets. Experts believe it is more likely that if an animal is exhibiting these symptoms, it is caused by a virus more common in domesticated pets then H1N1. However if you or another family member had H1N1 or you believe your animal was exposed, you can get your pet tested to rule out the possibility that it is this potentially serious strain of the flu.

Since cats can clearly get the virus, you should also take precautions with your cat the same way you would with any human being. If you are ill or someone in your family has H1N1, take care not to expose your feline friend to germs. Try not to be too affectionate with your pet or too cuddly during your illness lest you spread germs and unintentionally make your pet ill. Don’t leave tissues or other contaminated objects lying around. After all, your pet may be prone to playing with the tissues and this lighthearted game could potentially lead to their illness. Furthermore, ensure that if your animal begins exhibiting signs of illness, you go to a responsible veterinarian for an appropriate diagnosis.

Diligent pet owners want to put off the day that they memorialize pets with a pet headstone for as long as possible. One important step in doing this is to be aware of the potential dangers for dogs and cats and take steps to protect against them. Therefore, although vets believe it is unlikely that many cats or dogs will be infected by this new flu virus, it is typically much better to be safe then to be sorry.