Can your dog catch your cold or flu?

Photo (c) Rasulov - Fotolia

Luckily it can't, but it is important for owners and pets to stay up-to-date on immunizations

One of a dog’s best qualities is their ability to know just when to snuggle up next to you on the couch. Whether you’ve had a rough day or you’re down with the flu, you can always count on a dog to be all love and no judgement.

But sick day snuggling with Fido when you’re home with a cold or flu can often beg the question, “Can my dog catch this?”

Well, good news: doctors say it’s perfectly safe to keep canine company even when you may be contagious to other humans.

Human viruses aren’t spread

Keep your chicken soup close and your pup closer because, according to a Vanderbuilt infectious disease expert, pets won’t catch or spread human viruses. Even people who pet your dog after you are in the clear.

“The pet is a comfort, not a hazard,” said William Schaffner, M.D., professor of Preventive Medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in a statement to Newswise. “Even somebody who pets the dog or cat after you is unlikely to catch your virus that way, and you can’t get a cold or the flu from your dog or cat.”

But while pets get the green light to enter the room you’ve quarantined yourself in, Schaffner says it’s the two-legged creatures you’ll need to steer clear of. Close contact with other people is how viruses are spread.

Person-to-person contact

"Flu is transmitted person-to-person through close personal contact,” says Schaffner. “If you get within my breathing zone, within three feet, I can transfer the influenza virus to you. I breathe it out, you breathe it in, and you can be infected.”

Colds and flu can also be transmitted by hand or via surfaces, so it’s important to ease up on the handshakes when you’re sick.

“People should wash their hands often and use hand sanitizer,” Schaffner said. “Also, when flu is rampant in the community, greet friends with an elbow bump rather than a handshake.”

Diseases that can be spread

Even though dogs can’t get or spread human viruses like the flu, they can spread other diseases to humans. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), there are a number of diseases that dogs can pass along to their human owners, including Ringworm, Roundworms, Rabies, Lyme Disease, and Scabies.

To protect yourself from these diseases, it’s important to keep vaccinations up-to-date. Both for pets and people, the best way to avoid getting sick is to be immunized. Pets should get their annual vaccinations and people should get a flu shot.

The only difference is, Schaffner notes, “People don’t get a shiny tag to wear showing that they are up-to-date on immunizations.”

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