As winter nears, reports of one of the worst flu seasons yet are already coming out. You may have gotten your flu shot, but what about your pets? Animals can also suffer from influenza and cold viruses, so it's important to understand a bit about how these nasty bugs can spread and what you can do to protect yourself and your pets this winter.
Can I give my pet the flu?
A flu shot is crucial for your own health and wellbeing this season, but it might also help protect your pets. According to Fox News, a recent study found that 30 percent of cats in Ohio had been affected by the flu virus, with symptoms such as difficulty breathing, runny nose and fatigue. The researchers said these felines likely caught the virus from their owners. For this reason, it's important for you to get a flu shot, wash your hands and cover your mouth when coughing and sneezing. The news outlet reports it's also a good idea to make sure your pets are up to date on cat and dog vaccinations.
Can my pet give me the flu?
Other types of flu, like the dog flu, are specific to canines. Humans can't catch this virus from their pets, but they should look out for symptoms so they can get their pet the appropriate treatment if necessary.
Additionally, dogs and cats can be carriers of the human flu virus just like any other surface in your home. If someone with the virus is hugging, kissing or cuddling with the family dog or cat, there is a good chance the next person to snuggle the pet could pick it up.
What flu viruses affect pets?
Dog flu is technically the H3N8 equine influenza virus, and jumped from horses to dogs in 2004, according to VCA Animal Hospitals. The symptoms of dog flu are similar to those we might recognize in ourselves - cough, runny nose and fever. The canine influenza virus is virtually identical to respiratory infections in dogs such as kennel cough, so you should always bring your pet to the veterinarian for a diagnosis and treatment.
The dog flu is spread by coughing, sneezing and other respiratory secretions, according to VCA. The virus can survive on surfaces like walls and floors for up to 48 hours, on clothing for 24 hours and on skin for 12 hours, so it can be easily spread from one dog to another.
How can I protect my pet?
Canine influenza is rarely fatal, especially in healthy pets, and the treatment is supportive. Your pet should get lots of rest, eat nutritious food and stay hydrated while he regains strength and his immune system fights off the illness.
You can also get your pet vaccinated. Veterinarians tend to recommend flu vaccines for dogs if they are kenneled or with other dogs frequently, or live in an area where the virus has been identified. Additionally, vets often recommend dogs with heart or respiratory problems and those with short, flat faces get these vaccinations, since they can suffer from breathing problems.