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Can dogs suffer allergic reactions to human flu? - recent studies say yes

Can your dog get the flu from you?

Scientists from Oregon State University (OSU) say the next time you have flu, you might want to distance yourself from your pet/s.

Their recent research explored the possibility of human-to-pet flu transmissions and found evidence that the infection of pets from humans – especially during the peak of flu season – is a cause for serious concern.

While there’s not a lot of scientific information available on human-to-pet transmission (also known as “reverse zoonosis”), scientists and veterinarians at OSU believe that it is necessary to increase public awareness of the real possibility of the often asked questions of "do dogs get flu" and "do cats get flu".

The study of human-to-pet transmission could potentially affect the approximately 80 to 100 million households in the U.S. that have pets.

We worry a lot about zoonoses (the transmission of diseases from animals to people), commented Christiane Loehr, an associate professor in the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine, in a prepared statement, as follows:

  • Most people don’t realise that humans can also pass diseases to animals, and this raises questions and concerns about mutations, new viral forms and evolving diseases that may potentially be zoonotic. And, of course, there is concern about the health of the animals.
  • The team of investigators focused on flu transmission from humans to cats and dogs. They concluded that humans who have the flu should stay away from animals. For those pets that do become sick due to a respiratory illness, the scientists recommend that pet owners take their animals to the veterinarian to be checked out immediately.
  • Following the pandemic H1N1 swine flu in 2009, one dog, 13 cats and several ferrets were identified as being infected from exposure to humans who had the illness. The animals displayed symptoms similar to humans who had developed the respiratory disease; they stopped eating, and then died following exposure. As such, it is believed that the human-to-pet flu transmission is more serious than originally thought and confirms dogs do get flu.
  • It’s reasonable to assume there are many more cases of this than we know about, and we want to learn more, explained Loehr in the statement. Any time you have infection of a virus into a new species, it’s a concern, a black box of uncertainty. We don’t know for sure what the implications might be, but we do think this deserves more attention.
  • All viruses can mutate, but the influenza virus raises special concern because it can change whole segments of its viral sequence fairly easily, concluded Loehr in the statement.
  • In order to collect more evidence, the researchers at OSU College of Veterinary Medicine, have encouraged veterinarians to contact them if they see any cases of human-to-pet flu transmission. The team of investigators is currently working to develop methods of identifying, limiting and preventing more human-to-pet disease transmission.

NB - If you have flu and your dog begins to show similar symptoms, do not attempt to treat it with your human remedies. Many drugs which are effective and harmless to humans, e.g. aspirin can be fatal to pets, and in particular to cats.

You must seek advice from your family veterinarian immediately, otherwise the condition could be fatal for your "best friend".

Can people catch dog flu from their dog?

Currently, there is no scientific evidence available to support that dogs can transmit dog flu and upper respiratory infections to humans.

Although people and dogs can and do catch influenza viruses, they are normally susceptible to different strains of the virus. Please refer to our dog vaccination chart for the types of influenza viruses common to dogs.

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