Checking thermometer

Recent news reports, such as this ScienceDaily article, have been covering the potential for transmission of flu from humans to animals. These reports have caused pet owners to wonder if they are putting their own animals at risk. But how realistic are these fears?

We put that question to Dr. Tony Buffington, a professor of clinical sciences at The Ohio State University and a member of the veterinary advisory board. According to Dr. Buffington, researchers at his university say that while there is evidence of possible exposure to shared flu viruses between pets and their owners, there is as of yet no documented report of a clinically sick dog or cat and a sick owner sharing the same infection.

That's not to say such an infection can't happen, but at the moment, it hasn't been reliably documented.

In the meantime, Dr. Buffington advises dog and cat owners to follow the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control to keep themselves healthy:

1) Get a flu vaccine.

2) Take the usual everyday preventive precautions — hand washing, sanitizing doorknobs and handles, etc. — in order to fight the spread of influenza as well as other pathogens of concern among people and, possibly, pets.

For more information, visit the CDC's flu website.

Dr. Tony Buffington obtained his veterinary degree as well as his Ph.D. in nutrition from the University of California, Davis. He is board-certified by the American College of Veterinary Nutrition. He is a frequent lecturer and has authored numerous scientific publications and textbook chapters. One of his primary areas of interest is the role of stress and disease in companion animals and humans.