Does My Pet Need a Flu Shot?

Swine flu has been given so much media attention recently, when people even hear the word "flu", they automatically reach for the hand sanitizer. What tends to be forgotten is that some common illnesses that affect humans can also affect household pets. Dogs and cats can both catch a form of influenza. Although normally not life threatening, it can cause great discomfort for the animal. Many veterinarians and pet owners are choosing to get flu vaccinations for their beloved furry family members. Feline respiratory disease, otherwise known as "cat flu", has been a common ailment of cats for years. Symptoms include sneezing, discharge from the nose and eyes, coughing, and loss of appetite. Adult cats that recover from the flu usually become carriers of this virus. Because the cat flu is highly contagious, it spreads quickly, especially to kittens. There are different strains of the cat flu and many vaccines are available at any veterinary office or animal clinic. Getting cats vaccinated can greatly reduce the risk of infection. But no vaccine is fool proof and many cat owners still fight this common ailment, even after vaccinating their pet. Man's best friend is also susceptible to influenza. The H3N8 virus, or canine influenza virus (CIV), was discovered in 2004. This flu virus is also highly contagious among dogs. Parks, kennels, doggie day-cares, and other places where dogs gather are prime sources for catching CIV. Symptoms include a wet or dry cough, nasal discharge, and fever. In worst case scenarios, dogs can begin to exhibit signs of pneumonia, such as difficulty breathing and a fever over 104 degrees. A vaccination is available for CIV and, like the cat flu vaccine, is readily available at veterinary offices and animal clinics. Typically, those dogs that are not regularly exposed to other dogs usually avoid this form of the flu. In 2009, verifiable cases of the H1N1 virus, the dreaded swine flu, were reported in both dogs and cats. Unfortunately, there is no known vaccine available to prevent these, or other animals, from becoming infected. It is the responsibility of pet owners to take the same precautions with their pets as they do with themselves. Frequently washing hands, covering mouths when coughing, and other basic precautions will help to ensure the health of their pets. Most owners have no problem taking simple steps to avoid passing the flu on to their pets. Vaccinations are greatly encouraged for further protection. When it comes to a family member, even the four-legged kind, no cost is too great in keeping them happy and healthy.