Brouhaha Over H1N1 Set to Overshadow Real Problems for Cats and Dogs

Rumors are now circulating that dogs can contract H1N1 influenza, also known as swine flu. Here is a portion of an action alert from the...
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Rumors are now circulating that dogs can contract H1N1 influenza, also known as swine flu. Here is a portion of an action alert from the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).

On November 28, Xinhua (Chinese press) reported that two (2) dogs in Beijing tested positive for the 2009 H1N1 virus. We have not been able to confirm this report. We have contacted sources in China, requesting additional information about the history, signalment, clinical signs, diagnosis, treatment and outcome of these cases, but have not yet received the information.

Yesterday a photo of a Pekingese (of course) in Bejing (formerly known as Peking) wearing a cloth surgical mask was featured on Yahoo!’s home page. I wonder whether that dog’s owner had really thought about what he or she was doing.

First, every authority I have heard talk about the matter has said that surgical masks and dust masks do nothing to prevent the spread of influenza. Second, Pekingese are subject to a severe breathing problem called brachycephalic syndrome. Dogs with snub noses may have trouble breathing through those noses. They also may have trouble breathing through their mouths. A surgical mask will make it harder for a Pekingese to breathe, increasing the risk of a potentially fatal crisis.

I concede that H1N1 infection would likely be more problematic for a Pekingese than for a long-nosed dog such as a Lab. All respiratory infections are more dangerous in snub-nosed dogs. But based on the information I have available, I’ll bet that surgical masks (which, in my experience, are actually worn by people in China as fashion accessories rather than for health purposes) on Pekingese are a bad idea.

H1N1 is scary because it is poorly understood. It’s fine to be vigilant. But I recommend that you keep your head. Don’t let your fear of H1N1 cause you to put your pet at risk of other problems.

I’ll let the AVMA have the last words, quoted from the action alert.

This is not cause for panic.

Photo: If you want to protect your dog from H1N1, why not use this mask instead of a surgical mask? They’re equally effective.

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