Your Sniffles Could Make Fido Sick: Pets Catching the Human Flu!

It’s well-known that humans can catch diseases from animals, but did you know that your pets can catch illnesses from you as well? Yes, that’s right – you can give your furry friends the flu. Researchers at Oregon State University and Iowa State University have been studying this phenomenon and their findings might surprise you.

Mutations, New Viral Forms, and Evolving Diseases

When talking about catching diseases from animals, the term “zoonoses” often comes up. However, according to Christiane Loehr, associate professor in the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine, not many people realize that humans can also pass diseases to their pets. This raises concerns about mutations, new viral forms, and evolving diseases that might potentially become zoonotic (capable of spreading between animals and humans). And, of course, there’s the health of the animals to worry about as well.

H1N1 Transmission to Cats and Dogs

Researchers have identified at least 13 cases of cats and dogs catching the H1N1 virus from humans during 2011 and 2012. In some cases, pet ferrets even died from the infection. These numbers may seem low, but it’s important to note that many other incidents may have gone unreported.

“Any time you have infection of a virus into a new species, it’s a concern, a black box of uncertainty,” Loehr warns. “We don’t know for sure what the implications might be, but we do think this deserves more attention.”

How to Protect Your Pets When You’re Sick

Now that you know how easily you can pass illness to your pets, you probably want to make sure they stay healthy when you’re not feeling well. Here are some helpful tips to protect your feline and canine companions when you’re under the weather:

  1. Isolate yourself: Just like with human family members, try to keep your distance from your pets when you’re sick. This might mean spending less time cuddling or sleeping with your furry friends until your symptoms subside.

  2. Wash your hands: Washing your hands frequently can help curb the spread of germs. Make sure to wash with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds, especially after coughing, sneezing, or touching your face. And don’t forget to wash up before preparing your pet’s food or water dishes!

  3. Cover your coughs and sneezes: Use a tissue, or if one is not available, your elbow to cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze. Dispose of used tissues promptly in a lined trash can.

  4. Clean common surfaces: Regularly disinfect high-touch surfaces, like doorknobs, light switches, and remote controls. This can help keep germs at bay and prevent the spread of illness to your pets. And don’t forget to clean your pet’s belongings, like toys and bedding, as well.

  5. Monitor your pet for signs of illness: Keep a close eye on your pet for any changes in behavior or signs of sickness, like coughing, sneezing, or lethargy. If you notice anything concerning, contact your veterinarian for guidance.

Keeping Your Pets Healthy Year-Round

Protecting your pets when you’re sick is important, but it’s also crucial to ensure they stay healthy all year round. Here are some general tips for keeping your pets in tip-top shape:

  1. Regular veterinary checkups: Make sure your pets see the veterinarian at least once a year for a comprehensive exam, vaccinations, and any necessary tests.
  2. Proper nutrition and exercise: Feed your pets a balanced diet and make sure they get the proper amount of exercise for their age and breed. This can help keep their immune systems strong and prevent obesity-related health issues.

  3. Parasite prevention: Work with your veterinarian to establish a parasite prevention plan for your pets, which may include flea and tick prevention products, as well as heartworm medication.

  4. Dental care: Don’t neglect your pet’s dental health. Regular dental checkups and cleanings can help prevent periodontal disease and other oral health problems.

  5. Stress management: Just like humans, pets can get stressed too. Provide your pets with a safe and comfortable environment and engage in play and activities that help keep them mentally stimulated.

In conclusion, it’s important to be aware that your pets can catch illness from you, so take proper precautions when you’re sick to keep them safe. By following the tips above and providing your pets with regular veterinary care, balanced nutrition, and a happy home, you can help ensure they stay healthy and happy for years to come.