So last week, I was very sick. The flue bug got me and then the bronchitis came. Who is more loyal to us than our pets when we are sick? Rocco was right by my side the whole time, and up on my bed (even though he isn’t normally allowed up) As I was sneezing, blowing, and coughing I took a look at Rocco wondering if I should try to shield him from my sickness.
So what did I do?
I emailed our trusty veterinarian to get the answer, is it possible to pass the flu or a cold to your pet? Here is what Dr. Casey from McDowell Mountain Animal Hospital told me:
Their are multiple viruses that can cause the common cold in people- too many to discuss specifically, The common cold is a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract. The most commonly implicated virus is a rhinovirus (30–80%), a type of picornavirus with 99 known serotypes. Others include: coronavirus (10–15%), influenza (5–15%), human parainfluenza viruses, human respiratory syncytial virus, adenoviruses, enteroviruses, and metapneumovirus. Frequently more than one virus is present. In total over 200 different viral types are associated with colds.[3 These are all human-only viruses, but there are dog and cat versions of many of these viruses- the good news is that they are species specific- meaning that they can only infect ONE kind of animal
Let me address Influenza- the flu-bug.
Can people catch the flu from dogs or can dogs catch the flu from people?
The short answer is no. There is absolutely no known influenza virus that can infect both dogs and people. If you have the flu, do not worry about your dog or cat- they are immune. Influenza is a mostly “species-specific” virus- meaning that one virus only infects one species. Now, there are rare strains of influenza that are shared between species- like the “bird flu” or the “swine flu”. These made the news, and in my opinion, the animal-people significance was over-blown. They were strong viruses and did make people and animals sick, but to the average American, they were the seasonal flu.
There is a NEW canine influenza virus- this was just discovered in 2005 and devastated many dog racetracks. This virus acts just like the human version, causing fever, malaise, and if not treated appropriately, pneumonia. This really affected shelters, racetracks and areas where large numbers of dogs were housed together (with many dogs in and out of the location). I do not believe that it is of major concern to “house-dogs”- as with proper treatment and attention, the complication rate (which means life-threatening complications) is much less that 1% and I personally have not seen the virus in 7 years.
Kennel cough in dogs is just like “the common cold” in people- again the symptoms are caused by numerous viral and bacterial agents. The most common is a bacteria called Bordetella bronchseptica– which again, only infects dogs (very rarely cats). It is closely related to Bordetella pertussis (whooping cough in people), but is a different bug. We do recommend highly vaccination for this disease- as the complication rate is closer to 5% and we see kennel cough about 5 times a month!