Flu Virus Transmission: Can Dogs and Cats Carry Influenza Around the House?


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Flu viruses living on a dog's fur? Maybe. Photo by: Noël Zia Lee

Flu viruses living on a dog’s fur? Maybe. Photo by: Noël Zia Lee

The flu virus can live on surfaces from a few minutes to 48 hours or longer, but what about on the fur of your beloved family pets?

The life-expectancy of the flu virus has to do with what sort of object the virus lands on. Stainless steel, plastics, and other non-porous materials allow germs to live longer than they can on carpets and fabrics. So we wash our hands frequently, cover our coughs, and disinfect surfaces to prevent the flu.

But what happens if you sneeze or cough and the droplets land on the family dog or cat? Can the virus live on Fido’s fur?

Flu Viruses on Fur: Contagious Pets?

Decoded Science asked veterinarian, Dr. Ian Robinson whether or not the flu virus could live on the fur of cats and dogs. Dr. Robinson explained:

“If the person with the flu coughs/ sneezes/ has any other form of ‘wet discharge’ with active flu virus on their hands then directly pets the animal, the virus can be present on the fur (or if they sneeze/cough directly onto the pet).”

Taking pet grooming habits into account, it seems unlikely that the droplets from a sick person that land on the cat or dog will still be alive and active any considerable time later. When the next person pets the dog or cat, the viruses will most likely be dead – unless you have a very friendly cat or dog that is going from person to person in a home, begging to be petted.

In that case, it’s hypothetically possible that you could pick up the virus after petting the dog or cat that has been petted (or coughed on) by a sick person. Let’s take a look and see what and how the virus lives outside the host (that’s us).

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