- You can infect your pet with the flu simply by being near them when you’re sick and petting them.
- The flu virus mainly infects warm-blooded mammals and birds, which means dogs and cats are susceptible but lizards and turtles are not.
- Symptoms include mild cough, difficulty breathing, sneezing, and reduced appetite.
- Contact your veterinarian immediately if your pet shows signs of the flu.
- This article was reviewed by Andrew Bowman, MD, DVM, who is an associate professor with the Department of Veterinary Preventive Medicine at Ohio State.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Hugs, pats, hanging out. These are all things you do on the regular with your pet. But they’re also exactly what can get your pet sick if you’re fighting off the flu.
Since the flu is mostly spread through the air, your pet can get infected just by being close to you while you’re sick. And it can be especially bad when the flu virus jumps between species because the receiving species generally hasn’t built an immunity to that particular viral strain. Like when the H1N1 flu virus jumped from swine to humans in 2009, sparking the influenza pandemic that killed an estimated 150,000 to 600,000 people from 2009 to 2010 and a few cats, as well.
Warning signs that your pet might be sick with influenza include:
- Mild cough
- Difficulty breathing
- Reduced appetite
- Eye discharge
Which pets you can infect with the flu
Common pets at risk of infection include:
- Guinea pigs
That’s because the flu virus that can jump from humans to their pets mainly infects warm-blooded mammals and birds.
So pets who are not at risk of infections include:
- Other cold-blooded animals
What to do if your dog has the flu
Contact your veterinarian immediately if your dog shows signs of the flu.
“Canine influenza is a serious, highly contagious infectious disease,” says Jennifer Kasten, a veterinarian at Tomlyn Veterinary Science.
A vet’s diagnosis is necessary to figure out treatment options and give the best care. A vet can also diagnose whether your dog has canine influenza or potentially kennel cough, both of which are highly contagious.
Before your visit to the vet, let your veterinarian know you’ll be heading in because respiratory infections can be highly contagious, so your vet may want to isolate your pet from other patients.
What to do if your cat has the flu
Again, take your cat to the veterinarian right away. Especially since the flu virus has a track record of killing cats.
Between 2009 to 2011, the American Veterinary Medical Association reported 12 cases of cats infected with the flu virus, five of whom died. And in all those cases, the cat contracted the virus either from an infected human or infected cat.
For example, in 2009, a cat in Oregon died of H1N1 flu complications after its owner was hospitalized with the same strain of the flu.
Moreover, the veterinarian can diagnose whether this is the flu, feline herpes virus-1, or another condition, which will determine the best method of treatment.
Likewise, let your vet know you’re coming since they will probably want to isolate cat from other patients to prevent further infection.
How long the flu will last in your pet
Depending on the severity of the case, most pets recover in two to three weeks. In certain cases, vets may provide a nutritional plan or prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications to reduce fevers or antibiotics for secondary bacterial infections.
To help ease their symptoms, treat your pet the same way you’d treat yourself. Provide support and liquids and keep the animal comfortable.
Related stories about the flu:
- How to prevent the flu, according to doctors
- Yes, the flu is contagious. Here’s when you’re most likely to spread the virus
- You can’t get the flu from the flu shot, but there are side effects
- How long the flu should last and when you should see a doctor
- The flu vaccine is not 100% effective but you should still get it every year