Flu in Dogs and Cats – Is it Possible?

Do dogs and cats get colds or flu, as humans do? The answer is yes, but they won't catch if from you and you won't catch it from them.

Your pet may be sneezing, coughing or have a runny nose - a dog or cat will have symptoms that seem just like a human cold. They may even suffer from labored breathing or a fever. It's important to understand that although your pet's symptoms are the same, the virus causing their illness is not.

In other words, your dog or cat doesn't have the same variety of cold or flu as you do. Viruses are specific to their host species and require a dramatic mutation in order to "jump species". It's very unlikely that your pet will catch a cold from you, and you would not be likely to catch anything from them.

Dogs - According to the California Health and Human Services agency, Canine Flu (Influenza) is relatively new. The first case of Canine Flu was confirmed in 2003 in Florida, primarily affecting the Greyhound racing industry. By 2005, cases were being reported in California and many other states.

Up to 50% of dogs who contract Canine Flu will naturally produce antibodies that clear up the infection without ever showing signs of being sick.

The other 50% however, will end up having flu symptoms. The virus has an incubation period from 2 to 5 days and the actual infection stays in their system for up to 4 weeks.

Signs of Canine Flu are similar to a common illness in dogs known as "Kennel Cough" (Bordetella) and include:

* A thick nasal discharge
* Fever
* Coughing
* Labored breathing
* General state of listlessness.

Note that Bordetella vaccines do not protect your pet from Canine Flu. Since it is a relatively new disease, a vaccine for Canine Flu is still under development.

Cats - There's a wide variety of organisms that can cause colds in cats. Many of the same symptoms appear in cats as in dogs, but there are a few differences.

* Dogs will tend to cough
* Cats will tend to sneeze.
* Both will have nasal discharge (however cats will likely have some discharge from their eyes as well).

Whether a dog or cat, it's important to take your pet to your veterinarian if they have signs of cold or flu. The Vet will run tests to determine the actual cause of the symptoms and can prescribe medications to aid in your pet's recovery.

Here's a few things you can do to keep your pets comfortable while they recover:

Warm their food.

Your pet may experience some loss of smell while they're sick. Warm food has a stronger smell and will help increase their appetite.

Keep their environment sanitary.

This will help avoid further infection and/or other diseases from developing.

Keep them warm and quiet.

Don't encourage rough play or activity that will strain your pets' ability to breath. Like us, they need rest to allow their system to recover.

With a couple of weeks of rest, your pet should make a full recovery.

Vicki Apple has raised, trained and cared for dogs and cats for over 30 years. She is the co-author of "What Your Pets Want You to Know". To get your free report, "Secrets to Happy and Obedient Pets" go to Free Pet Care Tips
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