Could Your Pet Catch This Year’s Dangerous Flu?
The 2017-2018 flu season is the worst the U.S. has faced in years. To date, more than 50 children have died and states across the country are reporting total fatalities of over 120 people, according to Time. Even worse, the CDC says we’re still not in the peak of this flu season.
With a widespread and deadly flu wreaking havoc on humans, should you be worried about your pets? This year’s virus has many pet owners asking if their beloved furry companions can get the flu.
Unfortunately, the answer is yes. Your pet is at risk of the very same illness. Animals can get the flu, and this flu season has already been especially rough on dogs. However, it’s important to know the differences between human and pet influenza. Understanding how your pet can contract the flu is crucial in keeping your furry friend safe.
What Is The Pet Flu?
Dogs and cats are particularly susceptible to the flu. Certain strains of the human illness can infect these animals easily – dogs are particularly susceptible to Influenza Type A (H3N8). Both cats and dogs can also be afflicted by the H1N1 variant.
The most notable human flu strain this year is H3N2. However, humans and pets can still get and pass on the H1N1 flu virus, a secondary strain.
How Do You Know If Your Pet Is Affected?
We may be familiar with the symptoms of the flu in humans, but animals react to illness differently. Do you know what the flu looks like in your cat or dog?
Dog Flu Symptoms
Fortunately for pet owners, cases of dog flu are usually mild. However, the illness can last anywhere from 10 to 30 days. A mild case usually runs its course. A severe case needs to be taken seriously; serious symptoms include coughing up blood, difficulty breathing, and ultimately pneumonia.
Look for the following symptoms in your pup:
- Lack of appetite
Cat Flu Symptoms
Most cases of cat flu aren’t serious, but it’s always wise to have your veterinarian perform an examination. Some cats will remain an influenza carrier long after their symptoms disappear, which can cause big issues for multi-cat households. In rare incidents, cats have developed a lifelong problem with chronic rhinitis after battling the flu.
Be on the lookout for any of these kitty symptoms:
- Runny eyes and nose
- Mouth ulcers
- Loss of voice
- Lack of appetite
How to Protect Your Pet
Many pets are getting the flu this year, so you need to keep a close eye on your furry friends. Catching the signs of illness before the flu worsens is key – and you can also get a vaccine from your vet. Just like the human flu shot, the animal vaccine is not 100 percent effective. Therefore, you’ll still need to keep them away from potentially infected dogs and cats.
Remember, even pets that aren’t displaying symptoms can still be contagious. Because it’s possible for humans, dogs and cats to all get and spread H1N1, you should always utilize proper hygiene techniques. Make sure every person in your household frequently washes their hands and knows how to properly cover their mouth while sneezing and coughing. A single cough can spread the flu to your family and your pets.
How to Treat Your Pet’s Flu
Dogs and cats who are exposed to pet influenza have an 80 percent chance of contracting the illness, according to Fortune. Prevention is by far the best, most effective treatment.
If your dog already has the flu, he needs to be isolated from other animals. Rest is also essential. Depending on the severity of the flu strain, your vet may prescribe an antibiotic, cough suppressants, and fluids. Hospitalization may be necessary in severe cases.
Cats with any form of the flu will have a harder time getting a helpful treatment. This is because there are no known antiviral medications that help with the cat flu. So, follow the same steps: isolate your cats from other animals and provide a space where they feel safe resting.
The likelihood of you passing the H1N1 flu virus to your pet, or vice versa, isn’t high – but the risk is still present. Steer clear of sick humans, keep your cat or dog hydrated, and practice good sanitation habits, all of which are the best ways to keep everyone in your household safe this flu season.