The H1N1 virus has everyone concerned, and with good cause. Luckily, it appears that the virus won’t pose a big risk to dogs and cats. It can spread to other pets however, such as turkeys and pigs. You should also be careful if you have a pet bird as they have sensitive respiratory systems that are susceptible to other human illnesses (such as colds.)
“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.”
It is still important to pay attention to your pets however, as the virus could mutate. What can you do to make sure your pet stays safe? Here are some suggestions:
Ask your vet about vaccinations for your pets. Keep your cat indoors, or keep a close eye if you let them outside. Just like in people, pets spread germs through saliva, so avoid sharing bowls and toys with other animals. Keep an eye on your dog/cat to make sure they are behaving normally. If you do notice that they may not be feeling well (not eating, drinking, playing as usual), check with your vet right away.
If you are feeling flu symptoms, you may want to limit contact with your pet until you are feeling well again. Even though the spread of the virus is unlikely between human and most animals, it’s still better to be safe than sorry when it comes to the health of your pet.
EDIT: Since the writing of this article, there have been confirmed cases of H1N1 in dogs. Please be sure to visit your vet if you suspect your pet has been infected.
To learn more, please visit the ASPCA’s official statement on swine flu.