Can Pets Get the Flu?Published February 6, 2013
Zoonotic diseases are illnesses that can be transmitted from animals to humans; but cannot be passed from humans to animals. So if a canine or feline companion has been infected with conditions such as Conjunctivitis (Pinkeye), Ringworm (a fungus) or Scabies, these ailments are infectious to their guardians. Other conditions animals transmit to humans are Rabies and Toxoplasmosis.
But what about diseases that are transmissible from humans to animals? With the cold and flu season spreading like wild fire, with every cough and sneeze they make, infected pet parents who have these nasty diseases may be wondering if they could be spreading these germs and viruses to their beloved furry companions.
Back in 2009, with the documentation of 10 cases of H1N1 (Swine Flu) infecting domestic felines, along with four cases affecting cheetahs in a Southern California private zoo, this phenomenon was referred to by scientists as a “reverse zoonotic” process. It was believed that the domestic cats had been exposed to the virus by family members and that the zookeepers had infected the cheetahs.
Since there have been few cases reported about dogs and cats being infected by their guardians, is it conceivable that animal guardians can actually pass along their germs to their fur family members? According to the Daily Mail and Oregon State University, people who get sick with a cold or flu can not only transmit their illness to family members, but also possible to pets, such as dogs, cats and even ferrets.
Oregon State University Professor Chistiane Loehr is investigating reverse zoonosis. Loehr said, “We worry a lot about zoonoses, the transmission of diseases from animals to people. But most people don't realize that humans can also pass diseases to animals, and that raises questions and concerns about mutations, new viral forms and evolving diseases that may potentially be zoonotic. And, of course, there is concern about the health of the animals.”
Since the possibility of reverse zoonosis is a concern, researcher scientists are investigating flu transmissions to populations of household dog and cats. They recommend pet owners who are sick with flu-like symptoms to keep their distance from their animals. They also suggest that pets in a household, who may have been exposed to a flu-like illness and is showing respiratory symptoms or signs of any other disease, should have them tested and treated by a veterinarian.
Loehr added “All viruses can mutate, but the influenza virus raises special concern because it can change whole segments of its viral sequence fairly easily. In terms of hosts and mutations, who’s to say that the cat couldn’t be the new pig? We’d just like to know more about this.”
So can you transmit your cold or flu to your pet? While the jury is still out completely, it’s considered prudent to keep minimal contact with your furry family member.
What do you think your chances of transmitting your cold or flu to your pet? Tell us in a comment.