We’ve all heard the stories about the flu epidemic among people and, even though it’s not all that common, pets can also get the flu.  Know also that it can be highly contagious among animals, so shelters, boarding kennels, daycare facilities, etc.can be hotbeds.

Remember 2009?  People got the H1N1 virus from pigs–and then gave that virus to cats and dogs who often fell ill or died.canstockphoto7741255pethealthsign

Bacteria and viruses have zoonotic properties.  Zoonotic means simply that it can be passed back and forth between people and pets.

So here’s what to look out for in your dog or cat: Labored breathing and cough, whether wet or dry, are common symptoms.  So is lethargy or discharge from the nose or eyes. Gastrointestinal tract problems can also occur, so if you see them, check for any additional symptoms, above.

A healthy lifestyle–plenty of sleep, high-quality food and plenty of fresh, clean water, is critical always, but especially now.  Also check that your pets’ vaccinations are up-to-date.  If you board, groom, or send your pet to day-care, ask them about their health policies, particularly regarding the flu.  Since it is so contagious among animals, keep yours away from any cat or dog who looks sick.

You should also discuss any other preventative measures with your vet.


Irene Ross, CHHC, AADP, is a certified health and nutrition coach who specializes in wellness for the entire family, including the 4-legged furry children.  “Everyone absorbs the energy of each other, so it’s best to coach as a family–and animals are just as vulnerable to the same things as people, including obesity (which is now up to 54 percent in this country), arthritis, stress and lifestyle-based diseases, such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

Author of the e-book, Sugar’s Sour Story, and of the forthcoming book, 25 Ways to Fire Up Your Day: Increase Energy, Get More Done in Less Time, Balance Your Life, her website is:


6 thoughts on “PETS, PEOPLE AND THE FLU

    • I’m so glad you found it helpful. When my cairn terrier was a puppy, he woke up one morning and everytime he tried to bark he coughed. I was an extremely nervous new “mother” so in a panic I rushed him to the vet–who told me he had bronchitis!


    • Thanks for the comments, Erin. A lot of people don’t think about their dogs (or cats) getting things like flu or colds, but they do. They’re even prone to stress and suffer from second-and-third hand smoke!

  1. The H1N1 virus is very rarely spread from humans to dogs and vice versa, there are only a few known cases in the world of it happening. Dogs more commonly contract the H2N8 virus, which is known as canine influenza and was first diagnosed in racing greyhounds in Florida about 5 years ago.  It is believed that this virus is a mutated form of H3NA, which is found in horses. 
    I’m not saying that you’re wrong, just that it is more likely for a dog to get the canine flu virus then the human one, and there is a vaccine for canine influenza which has been shown to be highly affective with very few side affects. While it makes sense to discuss the zoonotic properties of bacteria and viruses, it would be best to also discuss the animal specific ones as well.

    • I did say that it was rare, but that it can happen. Sorry, though, I have to say I got the information about H1N1 from a very, very expert–and reliable– source. If anyone has questions, especially about animal specifics, it’s recommended that they speak directly to their veterinarian for more detailed information.

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