Swine flu, also known as H1N1 influenza, has been dominating the news recently. The viral strain appears set to cause the first influenza pandemic in a generation. Influenza pandemics are big deals. The pandemic of 1918-1920 caused more people to die from flu than from bullets or bombs during World War One.
Influenza viruses are known for infecting multiple species–as the name would imply, swine flu developed in pigs and then spread to people.
This may lead pet owners to wonder: can cats and dogs catch swine flu?
The answer appears to be no. DVM Newsmagazine reports that there is no evidence cats or dogs can contract, carry, spread, or suffer illness from H1N1 influenza.
H1N1 influenza has been isolated from a ferret. Fortunately at this time there is no evidence that ferrets can spread the disease to people.
Although it appears we can rest easy about our cats and dogs catching swine flu, remember that cats are susceptible to an even scarier form of influenza: bird flu (also known as H5N1). Cats contract bird flu by preying upon or being fed raw bird meat. The virus does not appear capable of spreading from cat to cat. That is a good thing, since the fatality rate among cats infected with H5N1 appears to be 100%.
Fortunately, it is easy to protect your cat from H5N1. If you feed your cat commercial or cooked food and keep him indoors, his chances of catching bird flu are nil.