Q: Are my pets more likely to get sick during flu season?
A: If you travel for the holidays and find yourselves breathing in the recycled air of hundreds of cramped airplane passengers’ exhalations, your pets might be at an increased risk of getting sick … but not because they’re more likely to catch the flu.
As it turns out, pets are increasingly at risk of flu season-related illness for one reason in particular: Flu season coincides with travel season. And the more we travel, the more our pets are subject to infectious diseases and/or stress-related disorders.
Think about it: Where do your pets stay while you travel? If you’re like most people, you’re likely to consider a boarding facility like a pet hotel. While these places are designed to keep your pets safe, disease free and de-stressed, they’re not without some risks.
Pets housed with others have a tendency to catch colds and other simple communicable illnesses — more so when facilities are at full capacity during the holiday travel season.
Then there’s the simple stress of your absence to take into account. Stressed pets are not just more susceptible to infections, they’re also more subject to a wide range of stress-related conditions.
This is especially true for cats, who can suffer urinary tract inflammation, gastritis, asthma episodes, upper respiratory virus reactivation (as with chronic herpes virus infections) and inflammatory bowel issues when owners leave them behind (or, indeed, whenever any environmental change occurs).
For dogs, bowel-related diseases are by far the most common, with simple diarrheal issues leading the way. Gastritis, which leads to poor appetite and sometimes vomiting, is also a concern for some.
Whether from stress or true infection, we can’t completely prevent these seasonal issues. We can, however, minimize them. Here’s a simple list of do’s and don’ts:
▪ Do make sure your pets are vaccinated against the most common communicable diseases.
▪ Don’t board your pets at places where animals are packed into small cages side-by-side with little ventilation. Always tour the facilities before leaving your pets there!
▪ Don’t forget to bring along their favorite foods and toys, including beds and maybe even some of your clothing so they can enjoy the smellier comforts of home.
▪ Do consider having a sitter stay at home with them instead of a pet hotel. This is especially important for pets who have already experienced any ill effects of boarding in the past. Some are just more sensitive to travel season than others!