H1N1 and Our Pets

On October 9, 2009 a family ferret was diagnosed with the 2009 H1N1 virus.  The ferret’s owners had previously been ill with the flu.  Ferrets are susceptible to influenza viruses.  In early November,  the first confirmed case of H1N1 was diagnosed in a family cat, living in Iowa.   According to Dr. Ann Garvey with the Iowa Department of Public Health, the 13-year old indoor cat was exposed to H1N1 by two family members who had been displaying influenza like symptoms.  Dr. Garvey says, “This is not completely unexpected, as other strains of influenza have been found in cats in the past.”  A second cat was diagnosed in Utah on November 13, 2009.  To date, there have not been any confirmed cases of H1N1 in dogs.  What does this mean for pets and their owners? 

First and foremost, don’t panic!  There is no evidence at this time to suggest that people can acquire this virus from their pets.  People are much more likely to be infected with 2009 H1N1 by another person than a pet.  So how is it that these pets became ill from their owners?  Just as the spread of the virus occurs between humans, the same mode of transmission occurs between people and their pets.  Pet owners are who are ill should practice the same precautions recommended to reduce the risk of spread to other people to keep their pets healthy.

1.  If you are ill with a fever, limit your contact with your pets until your fever has been gone for 24 hours.

2. Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently.

3. Avoid touching your eyes and/or putting your hands in your mouth.

4. Cover sneezes and coughs by shielding your mouth by coughing into the crook of your arm or coughing into a tissue.

If you have reason to believe that your pet is ill, contact your veterinarian.  The ferret and two cats confirmed with the 2009 H1N1 strain displayed signs of respiratory illness which include:

1. Difficulty breathing
2. Lethargy
3. Loss of appetite
4. Fever
5. Runny eyes, runny nose, and coughing. 

Should members of your family be ill with influenza type symptoms and your pet begins to display the symptoms listed above, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Continuing to practice good hygiene is the most effective tool to limit the spread of any disease.

Written By Courtney Thomas
Director of Operations at Wayside Waifs


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