Can Your Pet Catch Your Cold?

Can Your Pet Catch Your Cold?


Christopher Robin
Had wheezles
And sneezles,
They bundled him
His bed.
They gave him what goes
With a cold in the nose,
And some more for a cold
In the head…

A. A. Milne

Fans of Winnie the Pooh and his friends, Tigger, Eeyore, Owl and Piglet probably know this famous SNEEZLES poem by AA Milne, and may have wondered whether Christopher Robin’s animal pals ever contracted the sneezles and wheezles from him.

In fact, this time of year, when colds and coughs are rife, this is a common question people ask with regard to their own pets.

Here is the good news; the answer is no because typical human cold bugs and bacteria are not contagious to pets. So, it’s okay for your cat to jump on your lap or your dog to cuddle in close when you are feeling lousy and can really do with a dose of pet TLC.

Just the Facts

Cold and flu viruses are species specific which means that while your dog won’t catch your cold, if your dog has canine flu, those germs can be passed to other pooches in the household.

According to the Center for Disease Control, the signs of this illness in dogs are very similar to human symptoms such as cough, runny nose, fever, lethargy, eye discharge, and reduced appetite. However, not all dogs will show signs of illness.

Most dogs recover within two to three weeks. However, some dogs may develop secondary bacterial infections which may lead to more severe illness and pneumonia. Anyone with concerns about their pet’s health, or whose pet is showing signs of canine influenza, should contact their veterinarian.

There are two different dog flu viruses namely the H3N8 virus and the H3N2 virus and there are vaccines to protect pets from being infected.

Similarly, “cat flu” is the general name given to a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract in cats. It’s very different to a human flu as its most commonly caused by the Feline Herpes Virus-1 (FHV-1), or Feline Calicivirus (FCV). However, it can be contagious amongst cats. Also, some cats can just be carriers without showing any symptoms.

Communicable Diseases

There is no question that from a health standpoint there are far more benefits to having a cat or a dog than the negatives. Zoonotic is the general term given to describe medical conditions that both cats and dogs can transfer to humans.

According to the Journal of Medicine and Life, dogs can transmit several viral and bacterial diseases to humans via infected saliva, contaminated urine or feces and direct contact with the dog. Perhaps the most commonly known zoonotic disease is rabies which can be transmitted when a rabid dog bites a human.

Cat Scratch Disease is also a zoonotic disease. It’s a bacterial infection caused by Bartonella henselae bacteria.

“Cats can become infected with this bacteria as a result of a flea bite and less commonly, from fights with other infected cats or a feline blood transfusion,” explains Christina Nelson, MD, MPH, Medical Officer with Center for Disease Control’s Division of Vector -borne Diseases. “While some cats become ill, most simply carry the bacteria in their blood without getting sick. Some studies have found the Bartonella bacteria in the blood of up to one third of healthy cats, particularly kittens. And, in the United States, the illness is most common in children under 15-years-old,” she says.

For cats that do become sick, the illness usually consists of fever for two to three days, with the cat recovering on its own. Symptoms requiring veterinary care include fever, vomiting, lethargy, red eyes, swollen lymph nodes or decreased appetite. While the most common symptoms in humans include a fever, enlarged, tender lymph nodes that develop one to three weeks after exposure and a scab or pustule at the scratch site.

The best away to avoid CSD is by understanding feline behavior to avoid being scratched or bitten say behaviorists.

Ticks are carriers of Lyme disease – another vector-born disease that can be very debilitating if contracted by humans.

All pets deserve an annual wellness check-up by a veterinarian to ensure they are in good health. Part of their on-going good health should include preventative medication to control fleas and ticks.

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