Tag Archives: flu

It’s safe to cuddle when you’re sick

This winter, when you are home sick with the cold or flu cuddling with your dog or cat may feel like just what the doctor ordered.

A Vanderbilt infectious disease expert, while stopping short of actually prescribing in-home “pet therapy” for colds or flu, says that if having your companion by your side makes you feel better, go right ahead. Pets won’t catch or spread human viruses.

Izzy, greyhound, uin bed and ready to cuddle
“The pet is a comfort, not a hazard,” said William Schaffner, M.D., professor of Preventive Medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Even somebody who pets the dog or cat after you is unlikely to catch your virus that way, and “you can’t get a cold or the flu from your dog or cat,” Schaffner said.

While pets are pretty much off the hook, Schaffner says the true hazard in catching a virus comes from fellow two-legged creatures.

“Flu is transmitted person-to-person through close personal contact. If you get within my breathing zone, within three feet, I can transfer the influenza virus to you. I breathe it out, you breathe it in, and you can be infected,” Schaffner said.

Colds and flu can also be transmitted by hand—handshaking extroverts take note—or via some surfaces, such as when a sick person touches a doorknob, for example, and somebody else touches the same surface, and then touches his or her face.

“People should wash their hands often and use hand sanitizer,” Schaffner said. “Also, when flu is rampant in the community, greet friends with an elbow bump rather than a handshake.”

People and their pets have this in common: the best way to avoid getting sick is to be immunized—with pets it’s their vaccinations, and with people it’s a flu shot.

Source:  Newswise media release

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Can you give your dog the flu?

The answer is ‘yes’ but the risk and mode of transmission is poorly understood.

Researchers at Oregon State University and Iowa State University are studying reverse zoonosis.  This is where disease goes from human to animal (rather than animal to human).  There are documented cases of H1N1 being transmitted to 13 cats and 1 dog in the 2011-2012 period.

The research team is looking for more cases of human to animal transmission so they can better understand the risks to public health.  “It’s reasonable to assume there are many more cases of this than we know about, and we want to learn more,” researcher Christiane 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.”

Any new movement of a virus from one species to another is a concern because viruses mutate and they can mutate into more virulent or easily transmittable forms.

If you think you have the flu, it’s probably a good idea to respect good hygiene practices with everyone in the household and that means keeping your distance from your dog as well.  And if someone in your household has been unwell with influenza and your dog is experiencing respiratory symptoms, a visit to your vet is recommended.

Source:  Oregon State University press release