Can we pass a stomach virus on to our pets? In the U.S., norovirus is the most common cause of stomach flu in people. It can cause violent vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain that can last for up to three days in most cases. Besides, this virus is highly contagious and can be spread to other people, even several days after the individual who had it has been feeling normal again. This is why the stomach flu has such recurring outbreaks and why they usually afflict a good number of people.
The way that the norovirus is spread is through oral contact with the viral particles, either by consuming food or drink that has been contaminated with this virus or unknowingly touching a contaminated surface and then placing your hand in your mouth. When an infected person throws up or has diarrhea, the viral particles are spread into the air and can also infect others in the area.
Can Dogs Get a Stomach Virus From Humans?
As of today, NO!
It was believed that the type of norovirus that infects humans could not be transmitted to other animals. However, a study was published about this precise matter. As it turns out, a research group in Finland gathered stool specimens from 92 indoor dogs in homes where people had either exhibited signs of gastroenteritis, or had close contact with an individual outside of the family who had.
Tests were done on the samples from the dogs to look for norovirus. In four out of the 92 samples, there were signs of the virus, and two dogs showed symptoms. In the four households with positive results, children were present and multiple family members experienced sickness. However, it was not determined whether the two sick dogs were ill from norovirus, or had some other reason for their symptoms.
So while it’s not yet clear if a common stomach virus can be passed from humans to dogs and infect them, dogs certainly can pick up viruses that affect the gastrointestinal system. The resulting condition is often referred to as “gastroenteritis”.
Does My Dog Have a Stomach Virus?
If your dog is suffering from this condition, here are some of the signs she or he will exhibit:
Intermittent periods of vomiting and diarrhea.
Vomit that has foamy, yellowish bile in it.
Dry heaving and gagging after eating or drinking.
A large amount of diarrhea three to six times a day.
The dog will be less active and have less of an appetite.
There is usually a low-grade fever.
How Do I Treat My Dog's Stomach Virus?
The main course of treatment for this condition is rehydration and restoration of blood electrolyte balance. How this fluid replacement will be administered depends on the severity of the dehydration, but it could be oral, subcutaneous (beneath the skin), or by intravenous (IV) treatment.
Antibiotics may be required if the condition appears to be severe or if tests indicate a bacterial infection.
Antidiarrheal agents or drugs to ease intestinal activity may be administered in certain circumstances, but only after intestinal obstruction or other mechanical and anatomical problems have been eliminated.
Food, and sometimes also water, are frequently withheld during the initial stages of treatment and then slowly reintroduced.
Small feedings of a bland diet are usually prescribed.
You can visit a related Condition Guides online to learn more about gastroenteritis in dogs, read the experience of other dog owners and even get your questions answered by an in-house veterinarian.
How is a Stomach Virus Similar in Dogs, Humans, and Other Pets?
It may seem to you that your dog has caught the stomach flu, which is more adequately referred to as gastroenteritis.
Gastroenteritis is the medical term that refers to the inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, usually the stomach and intestines. It can be caused by viruses, parasites, being infected with bacteria, or a reaction to medications or new foods. It usually involves abdominal discomfort or pain, diarrhea or vomiting.
Any cat can have gastroenteritis, which may be mild and barely noticeable or it can also result in severe vomiting and diarrhea, sometimes with blood. This can lead to a decreased appetite, dehydration, and an electrolyte imbalance.
When cats suffer from this condition, their symptoms are often akin to the ones dogs exhibit, although the virus isn't transmitted between these species. The treatment is also the same.
How is a Stomach Virus Different in Dogs, Humans, and Other Pets?
In dogs, gastroenteritis is often accompanied by:
Blood in their vomit
Blood in their feces
In humans, the appearance of blood might mean something more serious.
Judging by this one study mentioned above, it appears that dogs can pick up and then shed the norovirus, but this may be true only in cases where more than one person is sick, thus spreading the virus more than normal.
So, it's not yet known if norovirus from humans can infect dogs, or if it just passes through. Nor is it known if the virus could then infect more humans or other animals. As of today, more research is required.
Meanwhile, keep an eye out for flu-like symptoms in your dog and have them checked out to prevent the condition worsening.