With so much media attention focused on H1N1 (Swine) flu, it’s not difficult to find articles explaining how to protect yourself and what treatment options are available. But what about your other family members, do you also need to look out for your pets during this outbreak?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended that this current influenza virus be referred to as H1N1 instead of the swine flu, because at this point in time, the virus is a human-to-human disease. H1N1 is actually composed of four different strains of influenza: a swine flu from North America, a human influenza virus, an avian influenza virus from North America and a pig influenza common to Europe and Asia. Although infections are increasing on a daily basis, only humans have become infected, not pigs.
With regard to cats, dogs and smaller species of pets (including birds), there is not any evidence showing that these animals can contract the virus. Dogs and cats have an influenza virus, which is specific to their species (the feline version of influenza is Type A H5N1, and the canine version is Type A H3N8). However, it’s still wise to be familiar with the warning signs of swine influenza, because H1N1 does contain a strain of avian influenza virus and swine influenza, which may potentially affect birds and pigs as the virus evolves.
Contacting your veterinarian is a sensible idea, especially if your pet has developed symptoms of a respiratory infection. For example, if you own a pot-bellied pig, any of the following signs could be symptoms of swine flu: fever, coughing (barking), sneezing, breathing problems, nose or eye discharge, eye redness or inflammation, depression and loss of appetite.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), H1N1 has not been found in pigs, so there is not yet a need to panic, but you should still be aware of the possibility. Updates on the U.S. human cases of H1N1 can be found on the CDC’s website, and rest assured that Federal veterinarians, state animal health officials and private practitioners are regularly monitoring pigs in the U.S. for signs of this influenza virus.