Yesterday, the AVMA sent out the following alert to the press:

November 4, 2009  A 13-year old cat in Iowa developed signs of a respiratory infection after several people in the household were ill.  Preliminary testing was positive for 2009 H1N1 on October 29, and the results were confirmed on November 2.  This is the first report of a cat infected with H1N1.  The cat has recovered from its illness.

To date, this is the first cat confirmed infected with the 2009 H1N1 virus.  Two ferrets, one in Oregon and one in Nebraska, have also recently been confirmed infected with the 2009 H1N1 virus.  The Nebraska ferret died, but the Oregon ferret has recovered.  To date, there is no evidence that the ferrets or the cat passed the virus to people.

The American Veterinary Medical Association and American Association of Feline Practitioners are reminding pet owners that many viruses can pass between people and animals, so this was not an altogether unexpected event. We are advising pet owners to monitor their pets’ health very closely, no matter what type of animal, and visit a veterinarian if there are any signs of illness.

For more information, view the AVMA’s press release on the Iowa case or visit the AVMA’s H1N1 resources Web page.

At the beginning of October, we posted an article concerning the Canine Influenza Virus (H3N8) and what pet owners should know about the virus, including the new Canine Influenza vaccine.  To review this article, visit  Canine influenza has not been found to transmit from our canine friends to people or cats.  As with most flu viruses, the concern is changes within the virus make up that may occur that would allow the virus to infect people.  Veterinarians and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) are monitoring Canine Influenza for evidence of transmission to people. 

Now, the H1N1 virus, or Swine flu, has been found in a cat in Iowa.  This is an isolated case but does provide evidence that we may be seeing more cases of H1N1 in cats, and our dogs potentially could be added to the list.  To date, no dogs have been found with H1N1.  What does this mean to our families and our pets?

Most importantly, veterinarians are aware of the possible transmission of H1N1 to cats and ferrets.  Your veterinarian is best suited to care for your pet and prevent diseases, so don’t be afraid to take your pet to see your veterinarian if you are concerned.  If you have questions or concerns, be sure to contact your trusted veterinary health care team.

Veterinarians and the CDC will continue to monitor the H1N1 virus in order to make sure pets and people stay protected.  There is no H1N1 vaccine available for pets.  There are recommendations to minimize the risk of contracting the flu viruses, not limited to just H1N1.  Veterinarians and public health experts continue to stress the importance of people hand washing and remaining home if you are sick.  If your pet is ill, keep them home.  They should not go to boarding or day care facilities, parks, or grooming salons.  Even though pets bring us lots of comfort, it is best to avoid sleeping or snuggling with your pets (especially ferrets) if you are ill or if they are ill.

Currently, treatments for pets that contract H1N1 virus or H3N8 virus are supportive care and antibiotics for pets exhibiting secondary bacterial infections.  Like most people, it appears that this flu causes a mild illness in pets.

The Gardner Animal Care Center knows how prevalent the discussion on the flu has been.  Our pets are now going to be part of this discussion.  With this new discovery, I believe, we are more of a threat to our pets because our potential exposure to H1N1 virus is far, far greater than our pet’s exposure.  The H1N1 virus is a common story in the news.  We will continue to monitor the H1N1 virus, H3N8 virus and the other flu viruses and their risk to you and your pets.  Be sure to visit and to stay up to date.