New Reaserch Points to Possible Human to Pet Transmission of Flu Virus

Can you really pass on the flu virus to your dog or cat?  According to a veterinarian specialist there have been a handful of these cases.

People are not aware of the concept, called “reverse zoonosis.”  Scientists and vet professionals are trying to raise awareness and prevent further flu transmissions to pets.  Approximately 80-100 million households in the US have a dog or a cat.

“We worry a lot about zoonoses, the transmission of diseases from animals to people,” said Christiane Loehr, an associate professor in the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine. “But most people don’t realize 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 researchers recommend that if you have flu like symptoms you should distance yourself from your cat or dog to prevent the spread of the virus to your pet.  Pet people are making videos like to help educate folks that want to prevent this in their loved ones. If your pet has a respiratory disease or other illness following exposure to a human with flu like symptoms you should take your pet the his veterinarian for testing and treatment right away.

In 2009, the first probable case of fatal human-to-cat transmission of H1N1 occurred in Oregon.  The cat’s owner became severely ill with the flu and was hospitalized.  While she was in the hospital her indoor cat with no exposure to other sick people died of pneumonia by an H1N1 infection.

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Since then 13 cats and one dog have been identified with pandemic H1N1 infection in 2011 and 2012 that appeared to have come from humans.  Ferrets can also become infected and die as a result. Flu symptoms in pets are similar to the symptoms in humans.  First they suffer from severe respiratory disease, stop eating and some die.

“It’s reasonable to assume there are many more cases of this than we know about, and we want to learn more,” Loehr said. “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.”

In South Korea experiments were done involving cats and dogs and the H3N2 influenza virus.  The results showed that the flu virus can spread from animal to animal although it is unknown if a cat or dog can spread the virus to a human.

The biggest concern regarding “reverse zoonosis,” is that when a virus evolves in more traditional hosts like birds and pigs, is that the virus may mutate into a more harmful form or one that is more easily transmissible one.

“All viruses can mutate, but the influenza virus raises special concern because it can change whole segments of its viral sequence fairly easily,” Loehr said. “In terms of hosts and mutations, who’s to say that the cat couldn’t be the new pig? We’d just like to know more about this.”

If you fear that your horse is carrying some disease, you may want to buy that muzzle from that a store that sells western tack.

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For more information on this contact Dr. Christiane Loehr at Oregon State or   Dr. Jessie Trujillo at Iowa State University.  



Cascia Talbert is a busy blogger, publisher, freelance writer, online merchant and mother of five children, living in The Pacific Northwest. With a B.A. in history and law and a passion for writing and staying healthy, she started The Healthy Moms Magazine in 2007. The Healthy Moms Magazine is currently ranked the top health blog for moms and features several health expert writers and mom bloggers. Ms. Talbert believes that if mothers are well educated on health issues and how to stay healthy, they can pass that information down to their children and reverse the childhood obesity statistics in the U.S.

Ms. Talbert is a featured health blogger at and her articles can also be found on She also runs the Healthy Moms Social Network on Ning, is the Chief Marketing Officer for Talbert Nutrition LLC,  and is on the Social Media Advisory Board for America’s Wellness Challenge. Follow her on .


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