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Are Pets Safe From H1N1?

December 15, 2009, 7:51 AM by Erica Johnson

Are Pets Safe From H1N1?
The H1N1 Virus is easily passed from person to person, but now even your furry friends might be at risk. Earlier this week, a cat tested positive for the H1N1 virus in Iowa. That's put veterinarians on alert and it's forcing them to keep an eye out for other possible cases.

The 13 year old cat that tested positive for H1N1 was living in a home with family members who had a flu-like illness before the cat got sick. Experts say the virus can't be spread from an animal to a human but either way it's still keeping those who care for small animals watching for the symptoms.

“Mainly respiratory. Sneezing, coughing, fever, lethargy. Those are the signs to watch out for,” Veterinarian Angela Anderson said.

Symptoms similar to what people go through can also affect your pet. Anderson says right now, experts believe only cats and ferrets can actually catch the virus and even then, it's a rare occurrence.

Dogs have their own canine influenza strain similar to the seasonal flu called the "dog flu”, but Anderson warns, just because dogs can't get H1N1 doesn't mean you shouldn't take precautions around them as well.

“Proper sanitation, washing your hands. You may even want to avoid having them around the sick person by having them separated in a bathroom or bedroom where a person isn't, just to decrease the likelihood it will spread,” Anderson said.

Anderson recommends bringing your pet in if you think it's coming down with H1N1.

“The treatment is the same as it is for humans - supportive care, making sure they have proper fluids,” Anderson said.

Veterinarians can test for the H1N1 virus but as with the strain in humans, Anderson says the virus just needs time to run its course.

Experts say people can pass on H1N1 to their pets, but there's no evidence pets can pass it along to people.

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