Bird Flu in Pets and Other Animals

June 7, 2023by Jamie Browning0

Bird flu, also known as avian flu and avian influenza, has been a cause of concern for both humans and animals. While it primarily affects birds, some bird flu viruses can infect pets and other animals.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), H5N1 bird flu viruses were detected in some domestic animals during outbreaks in Thailand in 2004 and Northern Germany in 2006, and more recently in cats and dogs in North America.

In this article, we will explore whether dogs and cats can contract bird flu, if they can transmit it to humans, and provide advice on protecting your pets and yourself during an outbreak.

Can dogs catch bird flu?

Although dogs can be infected with certain strains of bird flu, it is relatively rare.

One notable incident occurred back in April in Canada, where a pet dog caught H5N1 after eating a wild goose and sadly died from the illness. However, such cases of bird flu transmission from birds to dogs are isolated events, and the overall number of reported cases remains low.

How can bird flu affect dogs?

Dogs can potentially come into contact with the virus if they are exposed to infected birds or their droppings.

It is crucial to be cautious when allowing dogs to roam in areas where wild birds are found, particularly during a bird flu outbreak. While the risk is minimal, taking preventive measures can help ensure the well-being of your pet.

Can dogs pass avian flu to humans?

To date, there have been no known cases of dogs transmitting bird flu directly to humans. The primary mode of transmission of bird flu to humans is through direct contact with infected birds or their droppings.

However, the CDC warns that it could be possible for people to become infected with bird flu viruses through contact with a domestic animal, particularly if there is prolonged and unprotected exposure to an infected animal.

Tan and White Short Coat Dog Laying Down

While the likelihood of such transmission is considered low, it is always a good idea to take preventive measures to minimise the risk of infection.

Can cats get bird flu?

Similar to dogs, cats can be infected with bird flu, but it is also rare. Cats may contract the virus by coming into contact with infected birds or their droppings. However, cases of bird flu in cats are rare, and the risk of transmission to humans through cats is extremely low.

Symptoms of bird flu in cats include:

  • Fever
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Nasal discharge
  • Loss of appetite
  • Difficulty breathing

Can cats pass avian flu to humans?

As with dogs, there have been no documented cases of cats directly transmitting bird flu to humans. The primary concern with bird flu transmission to humans remains contact with infected birds.

However, it is a good idea to exercise caution and maintain proper hygiene practices when handling cats or any potentially exposed animals.

Small, caged and exotic pets

Small, caged, and exotic pets, such as hamsters, guinea pigs, and reptiles, generally have a minimal risk of contracting bird flu. However, it is crucial to maintain a clean environment for these pets to ensure their well-being and minimise any potential risk of disease transmission.

Regular cleaning of their cages, as well as their food bowls and toys, play a vital role in preventing the spread of infections. Using appropriate cleaning solutions recommended by veterinarians can help eliminate any potential viruses that may be present.

Maintaining good hygiene practices when handling these pets is equally important. Washing hands before and after interacting with them, especially before preparing their food or cleaning their cages, helps prevent the transfer of any potential pathogens.

Person washing their hands with soap and running water

Protecting your pet

During a bird flu outbreak, it is crucial to take precautions to keep your pets safe. Here are a few steps you can take to reduce the risk of infection:

  • Limit your pet’s exposure to birds, especially wild birds.
  • Keep your pets indoors if possible and avoid areas where birds congregate, such as parks or lakes.
  • Make sure that your pets are up to date on their vaccinations, as this can provide added protection against other potential diseases.
  • Speak with your veterinarian for specific advice regarding bird flu prevention in your local area.

Advice to dog walkers amid bird flu outbreak

If you are a dog owner, it is important to be mindful of the potential risks when walking your pet during a bird flu outbreak. Avoid areas where there is a high concentration of wild birds, such as lakes and ponds. Keep your dog on a leash and don’t let them come into contact with bird carcasses or droppings.

Maintaining good hygiene practices is also important. Wash your hands after touching your dog and consider using an alcohol-based hand sanitiser when water and soap are not available.

Advice to outdoor cat owners amid bird flu outbreak

For outdoor cat owners, similar precautions should be taken. Limit your cat’s access to areas with lots of birds, and consider keeping them indoors if there is a bird flu outbreak in your area.

You should also keep your cat’s litter box clean and always follow good hygiene practices when handling your pet.

Protecting indoor pets amid bird flu outbreak

Indoor pets have a lower likelihood of contracting bird flu compared to pets that have outdoor access. However, it is still important to take precautions to protect their well-being and minimise the risk of infection.

Here are some essential measures to consider:

  1. Limit exposure to wild birds: Keep your indoor pets away from open windows, balconies, or areas where wild birds may congregate.
  2. Avoid contact with sick animals: If you have other pets, it is advisable to keep them separate from your indoor pets to prevent potential disease transmission.
  3. Keep their living environment clean: Regularly clean and disinfect your pet’s cages, litter boxes, bedding, and toys.
  4. Maintain regular veterinary care: Schedule routine check-ups and vaccinations for your indoor pets.
  5. Stay informed: Stay updated on any bird flu outbreaks in your area. Regularly check reliable sources such as veterinary clinics, government health agencies, or reputable pet organisations for the latest information and guidelines.
A signpost advising of an Avian Flu infection zone, Chelsworth, Suffolk, England, UK November 2022

What to do if you’re exposed to an infected or potentially infected animal

If you have been exposed to an infected or potentially infected animal with bird flu, it is important to act quickly to minimise the risk of infection. You should isolate to reduce the risk of spreading the virus to others and seek the appropriate medical attention.

According to the NHS website, you should use NHS 111 online ( or call NHS 111 if you experience any symptoms of bird flu and have visited an area affected by bird flu in the past 10 days.

Concerned about bird flu? Get in touch to arrange specialist infection control

At Ultima, we offer professional disease control services for Avian Flu, Norovirus, Strep A, and Covid-19. Our biohazard cleaners have more than 20 years of experience and will ensure that infectious pathogens are eliminated quickly, effectively, and discretely.

Get in touch to find out more about our avian flu infection control service or visit our website to browse our full range of specialist cleaning services.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *