November 07, 2011 Cats Dogs Everyday Medicine

Fall Flu Season and Your Pets

comedic image of a cat with a face mask photoshopped over it's mouth

Fall Flu Season and Your Pets

Fall is here, and with fall comes the flu. Every fall our physicians urge us to be vaccinated against the flu to protect our family members and ourselves from contracting or spreading this year’s flu virus.

What about our pets? Why didn’t I start this post urging you to take your pet to the veterinarian for its annual flu shot? That is because, unlike the human influenza viruses, canine influenza’s occurrence is not seasonal. So, anytime is the right time to vaccinate your pet against this highly contagious disease. I have answered some commonly asked questions I receive during flu season.

What is Canine Influenza?

Canine influenza is a new disease which was first identified in Florida in 2003. It mutated from a horse influenza virus to an influenza virus infecting dogs. Canine influenza is now found nationwide.

Is my dog at risk for contracting Canine Flu?

Dogs at risk for canine influenza infection are social dogs, such as those that go to doggie day care, dog parks, dog shows or a boarding kennel — anytime of the year. If your dog is a social dog, a vaccine has recently been developed to protect against canine influenza, and your veterinarian will know if it is right for your dog. The protocol for vaccination is two doses of vaccine given two weeks apart, followed by annual revaccination.

What about cats? I have heard about a Feline “Flu.”

Feline flu is a misnomer. Frequently called feline flu, feline herpes virus and feline calicivirus infections are not caused by an influenza virus and are not technically “flu.” No influenza virus has been identified in cats, but the clinical signs associated with herpes virus and calicivirus infection can look very similar to flu in humans. Even though cats don’t have their own influenza virus, vaccinating them against herpes and calicivirus will help keep them healthy and limit the impact of upper respiratory viruses on their health.

Can my dog or cat catch the flu when I am under the weather?

Feeling sick? Thinking cuddling with your cat or dog will make you feel better? Wrong. Cats and dog can contract human flu. When you have the flu, quarantine yourself from all members of your family, including your pets.

If you must touch your pet while you are sick or prepare their food, be sure to wash your hands before doing so. Cover your coughs and sneezes to keep everyone else in the family healthy, including the pets.


This may also be found in the “Tales from the Pet Clinic” blog on

For over a century, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts. Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.

Tags: AMC, animal medical center, canine flu, canine influenza, cat, cat flu, cats, dog flu, dogs, feline flu, pet health, pets, veterinarian, virus,

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