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


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Are there any flu germs on your dog's fur? Photo by: PD-USGOV.

Are there any flu germs on your dog’s fur? Photo by: PD-USGOV.

Influenza Virus: Life Outside The Host

Once a flu-infected person releases the influenza virus via coughing or sneezing, these respiratory droplets land on surfaces where they can continue to live for some time. According to Flu.gov, the influenza virus survives best in environments that have low-relative humidity (less than 50 percent) and cool surrounding temperatures.

A dog or cat’s body temperature is normally 101 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit, says the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, but what about fur temperature? Depending on the length of the hair, it’s reasonable to assume that the animal’s fur is probably a little warmer than room temperature since it’s close to the body.

What is the ultimate perfect condition for influenza viruses to survive outside the body?

Influenza Germs: The Perfect Environment

In a study entitled, Survival of Influenza on Banknotes, researchers studied how long the influenza virus could survive on bank notes (also known as paper money). The viruses were kept at temperatures averaging 71.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Researchers discovered that the flu virus could last up to 17 days on the money when high concentration of the virus and mucus was present.

When viruses are not covered in mucus they risk drying out, thus resulting in a reduced lifespan, so the contagion of any germs that ended up on your pet may also depend on whether your dog or cat just had a bath. Viruses have been shown to live up to 72 hours when the surface is moist or wet, according to Flu.gov.

Flu Viruses and the Family Pet

So could flu viruses live on the fur of the family cat or dog? Possibly. Environmental conditions have to be perfect, consisting of low humidity, constant room temperature, and mucus to protect the virus. If you get sick, however, don’t blame Fido or Spot. Flu viruses are more commonly spread via hand shake, or touching a contaminated surface and then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.


Flu.gov. Interim Guidance on Environmental Management of Pandemic Influenza Virus. (2013). Accessed February 6, 2013.

Mayo Clinic. Influenza. (2012). Accessed February 6, 2013.

Thomas Y, Vogel G, Wunderli W., et, al. Survival of influenza on banknotes. (2008). Applied and Environmental Microbiology. (10):3002-7. doi: 10.1128. Accessed February 6, 2013.

College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. Vital Signs for Dog and Cat. Accessed February 6, 2013.

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