Cat in Oregon succumbs to H1N1 pneumonia

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
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A ten year old tabby cat in Oregon has reportedly succumbed to H1N1 influenza as the result of pneumonia. One individual in the household had the flu, and one week later the cat developed symptoms of sneezing and coughing.

The cat is the first to die in the US from H1N1flu, four days after onset of respiratory symptoms. Cats sneeze and cough from upper respiratory infection, but in the case of the Oregon feline, named Buddy Lou, breathing was labored, prompting the owners to seek treatment from the family veterinarian. The doctor's at the vet clinic knew the cat was in trouble from the appearance of his chest x-ray and difficulty breathing.

Lebanon Animal Clinic knew they were not dealing with a normal upper respiratory infection from the way the cat was breathing – he was working hard. The tabby cat’s chest x-ray showed fluid accumulation high in the lungs. Normally, pneumonia infiltrates appear at the base of the lungs.

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The cat failed to respond to oxygen and antibiotics, and died four days after he arrived at the veterinary clinic. Fluid build-up in the cat’s lungs became so severe it obscured his heart.

This is the first case of a cat dying from H1N1 flu, but Emilio DeBess, State Public Health Veterinarian in Oregon says pet owners should not panic. Caution is urged not to handle pets if you have flu symptoms however. Keep your hands away from your pet’s eyes, nose and mouth, and wash your hands well before petting and feeding to avoid spreading H1N1 flu among household pets.

Several other cats in the Oregon household also became ill, and one cat began showing the same type of chest x-ray findings at Buddy Lou. All of the other animals recovered, and do not appear to have been infected with the H1N1 virus, though confirmation is pending. Birds and pigs can contract H1N1 flu. No one knows if dogs can get H1N1 flu yet.

Passing H1N1 influenza from humans to pets is a rarity, but cats can indeed become infected with the virus. So far, four ferrets in Oregon have become ill from H1N1, and one ferret in Nebraska has died. Buddy Lou, a ten year old tabby cat in Oregon is the first cat to die from H1N1 pneumonia that did not respond to the usual treatment.

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