Avian Influenza Info for Pet Owners
Reports from abroad of domestic and large zoo cats infected with avian influenza (AI) have raised questions about the risk AI poses for pets, pet owners, and animal health workers. The current strain is carried by migratory waterfowl and has been known to transmit to domestic poultry and in some cases to mammals.
Though transmission to mammals is rare, there have been documented cases of infected cats in Europe and Asia. In every case, infected cats have been in close proximity to or direct contact with infected poultry or infected bird carcasses. Studies have shown however, that cats may be capable of spreading the disease to other cats.
Research has shown that dogs can also become infected with AI. However dogs are believed to be a "dead-end" host, meaning they cannot pass on the virus.
Birds are by nature most susceptible to AI. The virus is transmitted through feces and respiratory discharge (i.e. mucus), so it is important to prevent contact between domestic and wild birds.
At this time, HPAI has not been found in the U.S. Below are recommendations for pet owners if HPAI is found in the United States.
Recommendations for Cat Owners:
- Keep cats inside. This is the best way to ensure that your cat has no contact with wild or domestic birds or stray cats.
- Keep your cat away from stray cats.
- If cats show difficulty breathing or nasal discharge, contact your veterinarian.
Recommendations for Dog Owners
- Keep dogs on a leash when outdoors.
- If dogs show difficulty breathing or nasal discharge, contact your veterinarian and do not bring them to dog parks, kennels, or dog shows.
Recommendations for Pet Bird Owners (parrots, parakeets, canaries, etc.)
- Prevent contact between domestic birds and wild birds.
- Isolate new birds for ten to 30 days before introducing to current birds.
- Do not expose new birds to droppings, feathers, dust, or debris left over from other birds.