If you have a dog or cat, you likely view them as part of the family. So, you may be wondering if you should be concerned about them getting or spreading the 2009 H1N1 virus which is also known as the swine flu.
The question was recently asked of veterinarians with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and their answer was that this flu carries little risk of infecting pet dogs or cats. They caution, however, that viruses can mutate quickly and it's wise to take preventive measures for the sake of your pets.
The following information for pet parents was provided in an ASPCA news release dated October 2, 2009.
“Many species can become infected with influenza viruses, but the current 2009 H1N1 virus, which is a mixture of genetic material from different species, has not been identified in animal populations in the United States to date,” says Dr. Miranda Spindel, Director of ASPCA Veterinary Outreach. “These viruses are notoriously unpredictable, though, and it is important that we remain vigilant.”
In terms of other animals who are susceptible, Dr. Spindel warns that influenza or flu viruses are occasionally transmitted from people to pigs, and the 2009 H1N1 virus has also been identified in turkeys. Pet parents of Vietnamese Potbellies, African Pygmies and other pet pigs should monitor their animals' health closely, notify their veterinarian of any signs of illness and speak to their veterinarian about influenza type A vaccines. And ferrets are susceptible to most human flu viruses, so pet parents should take extra care to prevent exposure of pet ferrets to people or other ferrets with flu symptoms.
Meanwhile, flu season is upon us and pet parents should take common-sense preventative measures to keep their dogs and cats healthy:
* If your dog is exhibiting flu-like symptoms, including coughing, nasal discharge or fever (normal dog and cat temperature is 101 to 102.5 degrees), play it safe and avoid taking him to places like dog parks, where he can pass on germs or come into contact with unvaccinated or sick dogs.
* Avoid letting your cat roam freely outside.
* If your dog comes into frequent contact with other dogs or is kept in a kennel, the ASPCA recommends that you discuss with your veterinarian whether vaccination against canine influenza may be appropriate. Note: canine influenza and H1N1 are not the same virus.
* Talk to your vet about what flu vaccines are currently available, and be sure all your pets get vaccinated!
* Don't let your pet share water bowls, food dishes or toys with other animals.
* Make sure your pet is eating, drinking and playing as he normally does each day. If you notice your pet behaving unusually, or if he has flu-like symptoms, check in with your veterinarian immediately.