Wednesday, December 09, 2009
LOS ANGELES - A handful of pets have been sickened with swine flu in recent weeks, but here are doctors' orders: Wash your hands and don't panic.
The virus, also known as H1N1, has been diagnosed in only a few cats and ferrets since it emerged in April. Veterinarians say they don't know if that is because so few animals have been tested or because so few have the disease.
"I think we're probably going to be seeing more (pet) cases in the future. There is more focus on it so people are looking harder," said Dr. Kristy Pabilonia of the Colorado State University Department of Veterinary Medicine, which confirmed two new cases in cats on Friday.
A lethargic 13-year-old tabby in Iowa that was having trouble breathing was the first house cat to be diagnosed. In the last two months, other cats have tested positive in Iowa, Utah and Pennsylvania. All have recovered or are expected to recover, Pabilonia said.
Swine flu appears to be the latest disease spread between animals and humans, said Dr. Miranda Spindel, Director of Veterinary Outreach for the ASPCA and based in Fort Collins, Colo. Other examples include ringworm, salmonella, plague and rabies.
"There are lots of diseases that are transmitted from people to pets and vice versa and people tend to forget that," Spindel said.
However, it is rare for flu viruses to jump between species, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. And there is no evidence that humans can get the swine flu infection from pets.