Swine flu (H1N1)
With the stunning news last week that the swine flu (H1N1) has sickened 22 million Americans and resulted in 3,900 U.S. deaths – over three times more than the 1,200 originally reported – people are taking all necessary precautions to avoid this virus. But are you protecting your dog as well?
Companion animals are susceptible to the H1N1 virus, according to a report last dog-face-mask month from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Although no dogs have contracted the virus so far (the H3N8 canine influenza virus is not related to swine flu), it has been confirmed in one cat. The Iowa Department of Public Health reported that the 13-year-old indoor feline acquired the virus through close contact with its ill human family members. The cat and its humans have all recovered.
This case illustrates how different H1N1 is from typical viruses – pets don’t normally get sick with human influenza. “There has never been a report of human seasonal influenza affecting cats or dogs,” Dr. Julie Levy, director of Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program at the College of Veterinary Medicine of the University of Florida, told Time.com.
While pets can get H1N1 from humans, there are currently no reports of humans getting the virus from their pets. According to Dr. Ann Garvey, state public-health vet at the Iowa Department of Public Health, “No cases of influenza of any kind in pets – including cases of bird flu – are known to have moved from animals into people. And even among the animals, the virus does not appear to spread easily, which may further suggest that pets are not ideal reservoirs for influenza.”
To help prevent your dog from getting swine flu, the CDC and Iowa Department of Public Health recommend taking the following precautions:
- Make sure your dog has a healthy diet, drinks plenty of water and takes vitamins and supplements.
- Practice good hygiene. Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently.
- To avoid spreading your germs, cough and sneeze into the crook of your arm instead of your hand.
- If you are sick with flu-like symptoms, minimize contact with your dog until 24 hours after your fever is gone. The American Veterinary Medical Association advises against boarding your dog, since Fido may have already been exposed to the virus by the time you start showing symptoms, and putting him in another environment could cause additional stress.
- The H1N1 vaccine – as well as all other human influenza vaccines – is not appropriate for non-human species and should not be given to your dog, according to the Humane Society of the United States.
The cat diagnosed with H1N1 was lethargic, lacked an appetite and appeared to have trouble breathing. If your dog shows similar symptoms, take him to the vet.