Pets must be protected from bird flu

March 13, 2006

Purdue University veterinarians say pet owners can combat animal diseases such as bird flu with cleanliness and educated observation.

Cats and dogs were thought to be immune to the flu until 2004, when dogs exhibited the same signs as a flu virus strain found in horses. More recently, a study in the Netherlands that was published in January confirmed that cats are susceptible to bird flu.

Steve Thompson, director of the pet wellness clinic in Purdue's School of Veterinary Medicine, said one concern is the virus can be transmitted through the litter box zone.

"Flu viruses are typically respiratory, but bird flu has been shown to attack intestinal tracts in animals as well," Thompson said. "That affects the way pets can pass the virus to each other."

Purdue veterinarian Lorraine Corriveau said: "Pet owners need to watch for clinical signs of respiratory problems and see their veterinarians if they spot any of the usual signs of a virus, such as runny eyes and nose or cough.

Corriveau said pet owners can minimize risk by keeping their environment clean. "Overall," she said, "if you see a dead bird, don't pick it up."

Copyright 2006 by United Press International

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