Thomas Dock, CVJ, Vet. Technician  
Male, 53
Indianapolis, IN

Interests: animals, Reading (sci-fi and fantasy)
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H1N1 and Our Pets

Nov 05, 2009 - 34 comments

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

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675347 tn?1365464245
by ginger899, Nov 05, 2009
Thanks for this.
I always thought, if the H1N1 virus already mutated from pigs to humans, then further mutations to cross species barriers were possible -if perhaps unlikely. But in some cases, such as an immunosuppressed animal, then more likely I suppose.
This does give us something to think about.

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by MJIthewriter, Nov 05, 2009
I heard this on the news during lunch break. Quite disturbing. They also had a graphic how a single sneeze on a plane can affect those surrounding the sneezer.

That said, that's quite a bummer not being able to snuggle if sick, but I guess better safe than sorry..

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by chasha33, Nov 05, 2009
I wonder if there tends to be more cases coming about,If there will be a vaccine available on down the road for them as well? Has there been any known cases of this in dogs that anyone knows of?

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by ginger899, Nov 05, 2009
Well, my Misty is so used to sleeping with me now, she would be most confused if I kicked her out of bed because I had a cold or flu! Last flu I had, she stayed with me, and kept my feet warm when nothing else would!!
But if I was diagnosed with H1N1, then I would have to think seriously about it.

chasha...no vaccine talk at this time from all the sources I have been able to talk to.   And, to date, no cases of dogs with H1N1

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by ChitChatNine, Nov 05, 2009
Today, I called our groomer to make an appointment -- they require up to date shots as well as bordatella ... ok not a big deal & we are always in compliance and up to date and we've been using them for a few years now and very pleased.

But now they REQUIRE the H1N1 canine immunization to be groomed!   Unless I am missing something here, I'm going to switch groomers -- they are part of a Veterinary practice (next door .. you can drop off your pet and get your pet's shots the same day), and it seems they may be looking for revenue, while actually losing customers.


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by PrettyKitty1, Nov 05, 2009
This is all very new to me, especially the part where you mention the 13 y.o cat with the virus. I just had my Abby vaccinated against feline distemper and the rabies shots which needed an update on that. My vet never mentioned anything....perhaps because my cats are both indoors, although now I am not sure how protected they are even in the house. I hope they come up with preventive care fast.

What would happen if an animal who is a great health got the virus? What would happen if otherwise the animal (talking about cats here since it's all I've got) is not healthy and got the virus? Would it die? Would the owners got it any ways?

Some insurance companies require that you get the shot. My insurance company has mentioned nothing about it, and because there has not been ONE case of H1N1 in my area, I have not asked my Dr whether I should get the shot or not. I'm thinking I'd better get vaccinated huh...

ChitChat...your grooming salon is likely requiring the H3N8 canine influenza vaccine.  I am not sure where you live, but the canine flu has hit certain areas pretty hard and boarding kennels, grooming salons, dog shows, etc are places where your pet can come into contact with other dogs who might have had or have the dog flu.

It sounds like they have everyone's best interest at heart by requiring the vaccine.  As this dog flu continues to spread across the US, we will likely see more boarding faciliities, doggie day cares and groomers start to require it.

PrettyKitty:  Veterinarians quite literally are just finding out about this H1N1 in a cat this week.   The test results weren't released until Wednesday of this week because they wanted to test multiple times and make sure that there results were verifiable.

So far, the virus appears to be greatly weakened in non-human animals, so it is unlikely that your pet would die unless there were other underlying health issues.  AND...there has been NO documentation of pet to person transmission or pet to pet transmission.

I wouldn't worry too much...watch your pets like you always do, get them to the veterinarian if they appear ill and remember to avoid contact with your pets if you become sick.

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by opus88, Nov 06, 2009
Thomas, thanks for the information.
I worry abt any animal coming down with this, not only for their sakes and ours, but I worry abt it becoming more widespread and with all the fear out there leading to a CULL(sp.?) on PETS.

541150 tn?1306037443
by PrettyKitty1, Nov 06, 2009
Thanks Tom. This is great info. Keep those excellent articles coming. We all need it, and take great advantage of them....


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by chasha33, Nov 06, 2009
Thankyou for the info on the H3N8 vaccine.I live in Tn and i havnt  heard anything about that.How new is that vaccine?And how long was it tested before being available to the public?Thanks...Chan

Avatar universal
by kitonthemoon, Nov 07, 2009
A JackChi of ours started coughing after contact with a neighborhood-run-around-dogs yesterday, who was absent from the neighborhood for about 3 weeks.  

Is it possible our JackChi caught k-9 flu that soon, after only few hours of contact?  as I knew there's a 7 days incubation period for us humans to show any symptoms of cold/flu after contact with virus?

Advice, anyone?

Chasha33:  The vaccine was released in the late spring of this year.   It was tested on about 700 dogs prior to being released and it is still on conditional status (which basically means that they are still gathering information about it).  It does not prevent the disease, but it does lessen symptoms and lessens shedding of the viral particles.

Kit:  The incubation period for H3N8 is two to five days, but symptoms are not generally apparent until days five through seven.  Sadly, the highest level of viral shedding happens before the dog is even clinical.  Does your JackChi roam the neighborhood often?

UPDATE:  Here are some of the symptoms experienced by this particular cat:

"The cat, a 16-pound orange tabby, began acting lethargic and lost his appetite on Oct. 27. He is the only pet in the house and never goes outside. The cat, described as “large framed but not chubby,” stopped eating and drinking and stopped cleaning himself. He also rested by hunching on all four feet, rather than sprawling out on his side as usual, a sign of respiratory discomfort."

I hope this helps everyone understand what we might look for if there is a suspicion of H1N1 in our pets.

Avatar universal
by kitonthemoon, Nov 07, 2009
Hi, Thomas thank you responding to my post.

No....all my dogs are indoor dogs.  They go out in the yard doing their business. There're roaming neighborhood dogs like to come close to our fence and sit there.  Our JackChi loves to chase them away...they got very close to each other  seperating by our wired fence.

I heard that JackChi being small is prone to have cold..and very sensitive to temperature changes, as it was getting cold in our neck of the woods (about 50 outside yesterday). Could he jsut caught a cold?  He is not acting lethargic and have good appetite, except she is coughing .

ooking forward to any suggestion your might have.


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by sllowe, Nov 07, 2009
Thomas Doc,

Thank you so very much for posting this. Like so many others, my dog is loved like another child in the house. During flu season I felt some sense of comfort in the fact that common strains would not transfer to him.  After reading about the cat this past week - I got a little worried. I've learned a lot from this post and I'm grateful to know what to know the odds and what to watch out for.  Does size factor in the difference with succeptibility? i.e., the ferrets you mention and type-A. My Reggie is full size and 4 lbs.

Thank you again,

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by Heather3418, Nov 07, 2009
Hi Thomas,

Just the other day, my vet suggested the "Lepto" vaccine for my Chihuahua for protection against Leptospirosis.

I did some research on this vaccine and do not like the possible side effects an animal may have to the vaccine.  I also read that the vaccine may only provide about 4 months worth of protection against Leptospirosis.

I declined this vaccine for my pet.  Do you have any opinions about this vaccine?  I have never heard of it, until just the other day.

Thanks so much,

sllowe:  Thanks for the kind words...I really enjoy providing news and information about pets, which is why I love being on this site!!

With respect to little Reggie (is he the Maltese in the pictures?), I wouldn't jump to extreme worries right now.  Ferrets are more susceptible because the receptors that the Type A viruses look for are more common in ferrets and I believe ferrets end up exhibiting similar flu signs to humans.  If and when we find a case of H1N1 in dogs, I will be sure to post here.  BUT...so far, so good (knocking lots of wood).

Heather:  You have asked a question that is pretty controversial right now.  Leptospirosis is a spirochete bacteria that can infect and cause disease in many different mammals.  It is common in dogs, pigs, cattle, rats, deer, and many other animals.  Humans are also susceptible to lepto and it can cause kidney and liver failure and even death.  To confound matters, there are hundreds of different "strains" of lepto bacteria, some of which prefer certain hosts.  AND...further complicating things, the dog vaccines available have, at most, 4 strains of bacteria and they don't cross protect against all other strains.

The lepto vaccine has been implicated in adverse reactions, likely because of the cell wall antigens from the bacteria.  They seem to produce a very strong immune response.  BUT...in recent years, new types of lepto vaccines have been created that seem to reduce the potential for these reactions.

The question to ask is if your Chihuahua is at risk for lepto:  Do you live near woods where deer, raccoons or opossums frequent?   Do you go to dog parks or to lakes/river/creeks where there might be standing water?   Lepto is often spread through the urine and stays in stagnant water.  But, even city dogs are at risk.   I remember a case at our hospitals a few years ago where a poodle who lives in urban Indianapolis tested positive for lepto.   He contracted it from either urban raccoons or rats.  AND...you must keep in mind that lepto is a zoonotic disease and can be spread to you, your kids or others in your family via the dog's urine.

Talk with your veterinarian and ask why he is recommending it for your pet.

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by Heather3418, Nov 07, 2009

I live right in the middle of woods.  I have deer that stand on my porch.  I have raccoons that frequent my compost bin and I assume that opossums are around, but have never seen them.  We have foxes, coyotes and an occasional bear visit the property, also.  I believe now, this is why my vet wanted me to vaccinate my dog, since he knows exactly where I live.

My Chihuahua never leaves our 2 acres (rarely the front yard) and there are no lakes or rivers near us.  But I do see your point about her being in contact with things that may leave her susceptible to Leptospirosis.  I am worried about the adverse reaction to the vaccine. How often do you have to vaccinate your animal to keep it safe from this parasite?

God Bless you Thomas, for all your hard work on MedHelp and of course, all the hard work you do as a vet tech.  Without concerned and compassionate people like you, our animals would be in trouble.

Most Sincerely,

Heather:  First, thanks so much for what you said!   I feel very blessed that I have a job that 1) allows me to work with animals, 2) allows me to teach and help educate pet owners (I love to teach and I love the spotlight!) and 3) allows me to do answer questions by doing research and learning more myself.  So...in short, I wake up each day excited about coming to these forums and trying to help.

The Leptospirosis vaccines are labeled for yearly re-vaccination.  The duration of immunity studies that I found showed that these vaccines can provide about 12 months of protection, but even that is variable among dogs.   Bacteria as a whole, don't seem to induce good long term immunity among pets.  If your Chihuahua was a "hunting dog", your veterinarian might recommend vaccinating for lepto every 6 months, but, I think under your circumstances, once a year should be plenty.

Some veterinarian will "pre-medicate" pets with antihistamines before vaccination if they have proven to have had reactions in the past.  You could ask your veterinarian about this possibility, but he might not want to do this until its proven that your little one will have a reaction.   Another thing you might do is to post that question in the Ask A Vet forum and see what responses our DVMs have from their real world experiences.

Avatar universal
by PlateletGal, Nov 07, 2009

"I feel very blessed that I have a job that 1) allows me to work with animals, 2) allows me to teach and help educate pet owners (I love to teach and I love the spotlight!) and 3) allows me to do answer questions by doing research and learning more myself.  So...in short, I wake up each day excited about coming to these forums and trying to help."

Wow ! I wish that there were more veterinarians and other physicians like you out there !

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by sllowe, Nov 07, 2009
Yes, kind of. He is a Miki, and shares common ancestors from the penang, specifically (you tagged him) maltese, japanese chin and papillion. He's such a sweetie. Most always inside though somehow he did contract ehrlichiosis so I worry about him. He didn't show signs, just flagged on the low side positive at the vet. I have to bring him back to get re-tested. I 2nd Heather Heather's compliments with all your hard work and compassion. Like the Vet forum, we are blessed with our little corner of Medhelp too w/doc Quixs teachings and immunology and viruses. The education you both provide is priceless. I'm glad to have caught this journal today because I never visited your forum. I will now regularly.

Sending a million thanks for what you do :)


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by chasha33, Nov 07, 2009
What would you say the safety margin is with that H3N8.I lost my little girl Peke 14 weeks ago due to Telazol.So i am very nervous about letting any of my other furbabies have anything right now.Do you know if that is affecting  the Tennessee area?Thankyou so much ...Chan

Everyone:  I am blushing with all of the compliments you all are tossing my way!   My wife won't know how to live with me as my ego starts growing from all of the nice things you all are saying!  :-)   And, just for the record....I am not a veterinarian (I have played one on TV though...truth!) but I LOVE interacting with people and their pets.  If I ever decide to go back and apply for veterinary school...just make sure you watch for "Dr. Dock" in the future.   LOL!   You know I will be marketing that name!!

Chan:  I remember your posting about our Peke and the Telazol...and I am sorry for your loss.  It's always hard when these things happen unexpectedly.   As far as the safety of the H3N8 vaccine, all I can really say is that it was tested on about 700 dogs with no severe adverse reactions.   Similarly, I have not seen any breaking reports of severe reactions within the population of dogs who are being vaccinated now either.  Tennessee is not a "hot spot" for the dog flu (Pennsylvania, Florida, New York, Virginia and Colorado are the current hot spots).

You should have a good discussion with your pet's veterinarian.   If your dogs are show dogs, board frequently or go to doggie day care or other areas with a lot of other dogs, then your dog might be at a higher risk and you might consider the vaccine.  But, it's best to have that discussion with your veterinarian first.

One thing to keep in mind is that any individual pet can have a reaction to almost any medication.  Like us, our pets are individuals and their specific genetic makeup and unique environment could make them more prone to an adverse reaction.  But, it is impossible to know that ahead of time.   Vaccines are generally very safe, but that is little consolation to you if your pet is the "one in a million" that has a severe reaction.

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by chasha33, Nov 08, 2009
Thankyou for your kind words ,I am just really nervous about everything now with my babies.Since our area here is not having any outbreaks i dont think that i will worry about mine getting the vaccine at his time.My male Pekingese had a reaction apparently  to Malesab shampoo 2 weeks ago and so that has really had me questioning everything now and its safety.I posted about that on the General forum.Trying to figure out what happened there.I really admire your devotion and kindness to animals and there parents.Keep up the good work and Thanks again for everything...Chan

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by AireScottie, Nov 09, 2009
About the Lepto vaccine: when you write "hunting dogs" should have it more often, do you mean those actively hunting game or the hunting breeds?  I've always done lepto for my terriers, and they don't generally hunt to kill, but we do spend a lot of time in the woods tracking things, and they "guard" the birdfeeders from squirrels.  I never thought to ask my vet about 6 month vaccines, but since I live in the city, she probably didn't think to ask if we go out in the woods multiple times a week or over to the river, where the raccoons and rats are prolific at sunset.  So what do you think?  I'll ask her of course, but I'm glad you brought this up.  Just goes to show, you assume you've told your vet everything, and she assumes city dogs are protected...

AireScottie:  You are so right.  Often, we as pet owners assume that the veterinarians are asking all of the right questions and veterinarians assume that the pet owner is giving all the needed information.  Another good example is the arthritic dog who needs additional pain relief and the owner forgets to tell/veterinarian forgets to ask about other meds being given, like aspirin.

You have already answered your own question in that you should ask your veterinarian who knows your pet and the lepto strains prevalent in your area best what her opinion is.   But, in my opinion, dogs who spend a lot of time hiking through woods where raccoons and deer are prevalent are at a higher risk and could potentially benefit from additional boosters.  And, yes, I was referring to dogs who actively hunt or spend a lot of time in the woods as opposed to hunting breeds in general.  Another risk factor I forgot to mention is that dogs who work on farms are at high risk as well.   Cattle can shed many strains of lepto in the voluminous amounts of urine.

I hope that helps you...

881165 tn?1265988188
by AireScottie, Nov 10, 2009
Thanks!  It does help.  

Avatar universal
by dazyrose, Nov 11, 2009
this may seem like a crazy question but i really am concerned.  I read where you said "we have only seen H1N1 show up in turkeys to date.".  with thanksgiving around the corner, is this a problem?  i worry about the h1n1 and with not being able to get the vacine yet in our area, i try to avoid any way i can

I don't think that is a crazy question at all...

The turkeys that tested positive for H1N1 were down in Chile and I believe that they were small, backyard type of farmers.

Like with the pigs, I don't believe that there is a concern about contracting H1N1 from eating turkey.  Cooking the meat will destroy the virus and the virus is not likely to be in the parts of the animals that we eat anyway.

Also, larger scale turkey farms usually have some pretty strict guidelines to protect the health of their flocks.  I would imagine that anyone with any sort of sniffle would be stopped from going into the areas where the turkeys are raised.

I would say that you should be able to enjoy your Thanksgiving turkey without worry....

Avatar universal
by fady669, Nov 11, 2009
is it safe to take NSAIDs if have H1N1


There were rumors this weekend flashing through the blogosphere and Twitterworld about a second cat being diagnosed with H1N1.  This 14 year old cat presented to a veterinary clinic in Utah with flu like symptoms after the owner had been positively diagnosed with H1N1.   An in-clinic human flu test came back positive for the cat and samples have been sent to another lab for verification.  I have spoken with the Public Health Veterinarian of Utah and he will contact me once the test results are back.  Reports within the social media, so far, are being a bit alarmist.

Also, three ferrets from Oregon have tested positive.

FYI:  The NVSL at Iowa State did confirm that the second cat had H1N1.   Again, even though this is a second case, there is no need to panic when you think about the millions of cat/human interactions that happen daily.

Update for everyone:  To date, 3 cats have died from H1N1 with another 5 testing positive.  Turkeys, hogs, ferrets, and even cheetahs in a California zoo have shown signs and tested positive as well.

Just this week (Dec 21st) a New York dog tested positive for H1N1, confirming the reports out of China that dogs can develop the disease as well.

One thing that we want to keep in mind is the EXTREMELY small numbers of dog/cats that have been affected when compared to the millions of human cases and the millions of human households.   Again, at this time, there is nothing to show that our pets can transmit the disease to us or that it is a significant health threat to most pets.

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