Nov 05, 2009
Yesterday, the Iowa Department of Public Health released a statement about a 13 year old cat who tested positive for H1N1.
The cat lived in a family in which 2 of the 3 human family members had flu-like symptoms in the previous week before the cat got sick. After significant testing by the USDA, the Iowa Department of Public Health and Iowa State University’s Veterinary school, the cat was determined to have H1N1.
This follows on the news that a ferret in Oregon tested positive for the virus and a second ferret in Nebraska died after contracting H1N1.
So…should you be worried about your pets?
As many of you are aware, viruses tend not to move from their host species without significant mutations. The H3N8 virus (canine influenza) is a good example of how an equine virus mutated and began to affect dogs. But, some of our companion animals, like ferrets, are more susceptible to the Type A influenza viruses. So, it was no surprise to most veterinarians when the ferrets mentioned above tested positive. The same fact is true of birds, but we have only seen H1N1 show up in turkeys to date.
Of course, we are all well aware that the virus can be transmitted to hogs.
But, this cat brings a whole new focus on the virus and our relationship with pets. For many of us, we love to sleep with our pets and cuddle up close to them when we are feeling poorly. We often say that our pets “know” when we are sick and will come close to be our quiet support. It’s probably this type of behavior that made it possible for the virus to infect the cat.
So far, we don’t have a lot of details. The cat was older (13) so there is always a possibility that he was immunosurpressed in some way. The story states that he was an indoor only cat, but that does not preclude an early life of wandering outdoors and potentially contracting Feline Leukemia or FIV, which would also make it easier for another virus to infect him.
BUT…the biggest point I want to make is that this appears to be an isolated incident at this time and probably not a big concern for most pet owners. If our pets were truly susceptible to this bug, we would likely have seen a higher number of cases to date…cases that mirrored human infection patterns. And, we just haven’t seen it yet.
Still, it’s always good to play it safe. Wash your hands often. If you are sick, consider NOT snuggling with your furry friends until you are better. And, if your pets appear sick, trust your veterinarian. Your local animal hospital is equipped to handle this type of illness and can answer your questions.
Keep checking back to this blog and the journals of the veterinarians of PetDocsOnCall.com. We will keep you posted about breaking news or any changes in our pets status with respect to H1N1