Can Dogs and Cats Get Bird Flu? What to Know

A strain of bird flu that has been spreading among U.S. dairy cows in several states since at least March has also infected a number of cats on farms (1, 2). Though the risk of spread to humans is low, the CDC reported that a U.S. dairy worker also recently contracted the virus, which is called H5N1 (3). 

Outside of the U.S., bird flu infections in cats have been reported in Poland, South Korea, and France (1). If you have a pet, you may be asking yourself, is my cat or dog at risk of getting bird flu during the current outbreak? Am I at risk, too? Here’s what you need to know.

Is your pet at risk of bird flu?

So far, the cats who have been infected with bird flu in the U.S. have lived on affected dairy farms. In a recently released study, researchers described how about a dozen barn cats on a Texas dairy farm became ill and died (4). Tissue samples from two of the deceased cats tested positive for the virus. The cats had been fed raw milk from the sick cows, but the virus also could have spread from exposure to or consumption of infected wild birds, the researchers stated. 

Outside of the country, international cases have included cats who ingested contaminated cat food in shelters and cats who likely ate raw meat (2).

While these conditions may not exist for everyday pet parents, it’s important to know that yes, this virus can spread to domestic pets such as dogs and cats. If your pet eats or is exposed to an infected bird or an environment contaminated with the virus, they could get sick with bird flu. While the odds of you catching bird flu from your pet are low, it’s not impossible (5). 

Bird flu symptoms in cats and dogs to watch for

Bird flu-infected cats have reportedly exhibited a variety of symptoms, including respiratory and neurological signs. According to the AVMA, signs of bird flu in infected cats and dogs may include (6):

  • Fever
  • Low energy (lethargy)
  • Lack of appetite (inappetence)
  • Conjunctivitis (red, weepy eyes)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Neurologic signs, such as seizures or incoordination
  • Death

In addition to the above signs, most types of influenza can also cause fever, coughing, and nasal discharge.

As always, if your pet is showing signs of illness, promptly contact your veterinarian.

How to protect your pets from bird flu

The best way to keep your pets safe and healthy is to keep them away from wild birds or poultry. Other ways to protect your dog or cat from bird flu include:

  • Keep curious pets who like to chase birds or sniff dead animals on a leash when possible
  • If you have a lot of wild birds in your area, keep cats mostly indoors and supervised when outdoors
  • Avoid bringing your pets around livestock 
  • Do not feed raw or undercooked poultry to your pets (7)
  • Consider taking down bird feeders and bird baths that attract wild birds (and their droppings) into your yard (7)

Pet parents should also avoid contact with wild birds, as the virus—again, while rare—can be transmitted from bird to human.

If you find a bird that appears to be sick, injured, or dead, call your local state wildlife agency to report it (8). Don’t try to pick it up yourself. Humans should also cook poultry to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit, which can kill many bacteria and viruses, such as bird flu. 

Stay informed

It’s also a good idea to keep up with the official health status of the outbreak. Public health risk for H5N1 bird flu is currently listed as “low,” according to the CDC. However, this risk varies by state. Some states, including Texas, have reported more of the virus in livestock and/or birds. The CDC is working with states to monitor people with animal exposures. 


  1. “Considerations for Veterinarians: Evaluating and Handling of Cats Potentially Exposed to Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza A(H5N1) Virus.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Last reviewed April 10, 2024. Retrieved from
  2. “4 more cats test positive for H5N1 bird flu in the U.S.” BNO News. April 26, 2024. Retrieved from
  3. “H5N1 Bird Flu: Current Situation Summary.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Updated May 2, 2024. Retrieved from:
  4. Ly, Hinh. “Highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 virus infections of dairy cattle and livestock handlers in the United States of America.” Virulence vol. 15,1 (2024): 2343931. doi:10.1080/21505594.2024.2343931
  5. “Bird Flu in Pets and Other Animals.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Last reviewed April 8, 2024. Retrieved from:
  6. “Avian influenza.” American Veterinary Medical Association. Retrieved from:
  7. “Animal Health Alert: Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) H5N1 Detected in Wild Birds in Los Angeles County: Guidance and Reporting Forms.” County of Los Angeles Public Health. Jan., 24, 2024. Retrieved from:
  8. “Prevention and Antiviral Treatment of Bird Flu Virus in People.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Last reviewed April 10, 2024. Retrieved from:

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