Because the H5N1 strain of avian influenza has not reached the United States, there is no immediate risk to your cats or dogs.
There is a concern for worldwide emergence of this deadly virus among; so the Minnesota Veterinary Medical Association, Minnesota Department of Health, Minnesota Department of Agriculture and the Center for Animal Health and Food Safety at the University of Minnesota have released a handout titled Avian Influenza – A Guide for Veterinarians and Companion Animal Owners.
Cats could be exposed to the virus by eating or having close contact with infected wild birds. Although cat-to-cat transmission of the virus has been established, there is absolutely no evidence that people can become infected with H5N1 from their cats. Dogs have not been currently demonstrated to show signs of illness after exposure but have another respiratory concern called Canine Influenza.
If the H5N1 strain of avian influenza is found in wild birds in Minnesota, these organizations would have the following recommendations for both cats and dogs:
- No free roaming outdoors
- Walk on a leash and stay away from wild birds
- Use protective gloves to dispose of dead birds, than wash your hands thoroughly
Additional information about avian flu can be found at: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention American Veterinary Medical Association American Animal Hospital Association Cornell Feline Health Center