Pet Flu: Understanding Flu-like Symptoms

Ever worry that you would give your flu to your family, friends, or even your pet? If so, this article is for you.

If you are dealing with the flu, you are probably worried about passing it to your friends, coworkers and family – and rightfully so. The flu is absolutely awful and can be debilitating so it makes sense that pet owners would also worry about their “furbabies” catching their nasty illness.

However, the “flu” is a general term for the many strands and types of influenza floating around in the world. In short, the flu is not one singular virus that behaves predictably. The types are divided into a wide array of subtypes based on the specific components of the virus.

If you have heard of the avian or swine flu, then you know that there are reported instances of humans contracting the disease from animals. The reality, however, is that is quite rare for people to get influenza from animals. So, what about the other way around? Can you pass your sickness to your pet?

Flu viruses are complex and can be tricky. The reality is that they do not always behave the way that researchers predict. However, the chances of passing your flu to your pet are extremely low.

With all of that said, there are many types of influenza that are specific to animals. If you are concerned that they may have the flu, head to a vet as soon as you can. But, in the meantime, here is a bit of information about pet flu and how to know if they are ill.

a dog with flu is examined by a vet

Canine Influenza

Dogs suffering with the mild form of canine influenza develop a relatively mild cough. It typically persists for 10 to 30 days. Other symptoms may include lethargy, lack of appetite, sneezing and fever.  You may even notice a discharge from the eyes and nose. There is also a severe form of the dog flu in which dogs develop high fevers and, if left untreated, can develop into pneumonia.

The more severe flu is obviously more concerning but you know your pet best so keep an eye on them and go with your gut. If your dog seems ill for any extended period of time, you are better safe than sorry. Head to the vet’s office.

Feline Influenza

Cat flu is very similar to  a human cold.  It is uncomfortable and not fun for your furry buddy. However, it is not likely to become a serious problem as long as you keep an eye on your pet. Just as with the dog flu, getting a professional opinion is always best.

Symptoms will likely include a sore throat as well as a runny nose and eye discharge. They may also seem to have achy muscles and joints or even develop mouth ulcers. Excessive sneezing, loss of voice and fever. It is rarely dangerous or serious but seeing a vet is a good idea.

Pet birds (Avian flu)

The avian flu is a  buzzword that can cause panic. But, is it really a big concern when it comes to pet birds? The answer is probably not.  

The risk of contracting avian flu is pretty low for the average captive bird in America. However, two factors can increase their risk of infection: 

  1. If a bird is allowed a lot of outdoor activity and has access to other wild birds, this can increase the risk of infection. Minimizing the risk is not hard. Keep your pet birds in an aviary or cage when they are outdoors.
  2. The sale of wild caught birds into the pet trade causes severe trauma. Terrible diseases are often spread amongst very stressed animals with deficient immune systems.

Possible symptoms of flu in birds include, but are not limited to, reduced appetite, respiratory and breathing issues, swollen head, eye discharge, depression, and GI issues.  No matter what, the best choice is always to be safe rather than sorry so if you are worried about your pet, take them to the vet. To get back to the initial point of this article,  it is almost impossible to pass your own flu to a pet or animal. But, remember that these viruses are not beholden to our “rules.”  If you are worried about your pet, get them seen by a professional asap.


By: Jennifer

Contributing Animalista

The Animalista contributors are animal people from around the world who use their writing talents to produce content that educates, entertains, and raises awareness for animal related topics.  


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