When flu season strikes, we all try to prevent ourselves and others around us from coming down with it. But if you are to contract the flu, can your dog catch it from you as well? Meaning, is the same influenza virus that affects humans contagious for our canine friends?
Luckily, the answer is "no." The flu that's currently spreading around the U.S. is, luckily, not contractable in our pups. Still, even though you can't pass your misery onto your pet, dogs can still come down with the flu in the form of canine influenza.
What Is Canine Influenza?
The dog flu is similar to the virus that infects humans in that it's spread across the continental U.S. and can be highly contagious. Transmission of the virus is the same as well. Dogs that spend lots of time around other dogs outside of their household are more at risk of getting sick. Therefore, dogs who frequently socialize at the dog park, or have recently stayed in a kennel or other boarding center, are more likely to contract influenza than their homebody counterparts.
Symptoms of canine influenza may be less pronounced than in humans. (Let's face it: our dogs are made from tougher stuff.) However, the virus manifests in the same manner: coughing, sneezing, fever, runny nose and eyes, lethargy, and even difficulty breathing.
While you can rest assured your pup didn't pick up the crud from you, they should still be taken to the vet, especially if symptoms continue to worsen.
What Illnesses Can Be Passed Between Humans And Dogs?
Although humans and dogs don't often share viruses, bacterial infections and parasites can be passed from one to the other. Here's a quick list of non-desirable afflictions you can give to (or catch from) your dog:
This parasite is often found in water contaminated with wildlife fecal matter. It's unlikely that most humans will be caught drinking questionable and unfiltered water, but it can be difficult from stopping our dogs from refreshing themselves at the nearest puddle. Thus, while giardia can be passed from humans to dogs, it's more likely to go the other way. Symptoms include diarrhea in either species.
This antibiotic-resistant staph bacteria is far more likely to be transferred from humans to dogs. People who contract MRSA often show signs on their skin, such as lesions that resemble pimples or boils. It appears in dogs as non-healing wounds, chronic ear infections, swollen skin, and lesions. If your dog has any of these signs, consider asking your vet to do a culture of the bacteria in the infected areas.
More commonly referred to as "scabies," mange is the result of a tiny mite burrowing into your dog's skin. Symptoms include extreme itchiness, fur loss, scabbing, and sores. Luckily, this mite can't cause the same damage in humans, although it is contractable. Those who catch mange from their dogs likely won't lose any of their hair, but they may see a rash of small, red bumps.
The fungal infection referred to as "ringworm" can be contracted and shared between dogs and humans. The symptoms usually appear in the same way: red, circular lesions on the skin. In dogs, fur loss around those patches may also occur. Don't be so quick to blame your pooch if you contract this infection though! Ringworm is often found in soil and other places where you might garden, relax, or play.
The difference between "ringworm" and "roundworm" is profound, with "round" being far worse. Luckily, although infected dogs can transfer these intestinal parasitic worms to humans (and vice versa), the incidence of the infection is relatively low in the U.S. Symptoms in dogs include diarrhea, vomiting, coughing, bloody stool, and, yes, worms in the stool. In humans, look for blood in the stool, abdominal pain, trouble breathing, and coughing. Washing your hands thoroughly after picking up dog poop is one good way to lower the risk of infection.
The fears of a Cujo-like situation happening in real life have dissipated for most of us. However, the rabies virus still exists and can be transferred from dog to human through saliva. Symptoms in dogs include foaming at the mouth, seizures, fever, a "dropped jaw," and lack of muscle coordination. In humans, rabies manifests in fever, inability to sleep, lack of appetite, headaches, anxiety, vomiting, and sore throat. Both dogs and humans, unfortunately, rarely survive the infection. Luckily, rabies vaccines in both species are required by the government, thus lowering the incidence of the virus to almost "zilch." Still, if you or your dog have been bitten by a bat, raccoon, coyote, or other wildlife, head to the vet or hospital immediately.