(PETS) Did you know that people can pass the flu to their pets?

Studies show flu infections are more common in cats and dogs than previously thought. In one study, scientists analyzed cat blood samples and found that 30 percent of the cats had been infected with seasonal flu, and 20 percent had been infected with the H1N1 virus.

Could you give your dog the flu? Researchers are saying yes. Photo Credit: Mariela M. via Flickr

Zoonosis, any infectious disease that is transmitted from animals to humans, is a familiar concept to scientists. Of the 1,415 pathogens known to effect humans, 61 percent are zoonotic.

There is strong evidence that non-human animals first hosted measles, smallpox, HIV, among other infamous diseases. Yet anthroponosis, or reverse-zoonosis (diseases transferred from human to animal), is much less common and thus, has not been studied a great deal.

However, scientists are now realizing that anthroponotic diseases—particularly the flu—in cats and dogs is not as unusual as we thought.

The first recorded case of human-to-cat transmission of the H1N1 virus took place in Oregon in 2009. An individual became very sick with the flu and was hospitalized. While in the hospital, her indoor cat—who had had no exposure to wildlife or other pets—died of pneumonia caused by the H1N1 virus.

So far, researchers have identified a total of 13 cats and one dog with H1N1 infection that appears to have originated in humans.

Certainly many more reverse-zoonosis cases exist, but remain undisclosed or unrecognized.

Pets with the flu share many of the same symptoms as humans—breathing troubles, a running nose, sneezing, and fatigue. It is important that if you come down with the flu, no matter how much you want a cuddly buddy by your side, keep a good distance from your pet.

Although reverse-zoonotic cases are atypical, they definitely can occur. If your pet demonstrates flu-like symptoms, take the appropriate precautions and bring him/her to the vet right away.

— Danielle LeVee, exclusive to Global Animal

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