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Are pets safe from swine flu?

JBW just wrote in to Unleashed, asking, "Do you think animals (like our beloved cats and dogs) are at risk for swine flu? This may be a silly question, but it's been on my mind."

That question has been on a lot of people's minds as the flu virus spreads through the country.

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The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals released a statement yesterday saying the virus, which seems to have originated in Mexico, "appears to present a low risk of infecting cats and dogs." The American Veterinary Medical Association also is saying "there is no evidence that pets are susceptible to this new strain of influenza."

"At this time there is no data demonstrating any risk of dogs and cats contracting this strain of the virus," says Dr. Louise Murray, the Director of Medicine at the ASPCA's Bergh Memorial Hospital in New York City. "However, owners of pet pigs, as well as farmers, should monitor their animal's health more closely during this outbreak. Steps to limit possible transmission from humans to pigs and vice versa are recommended."

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The ASPCA recommends keeping pet pigs and swine farms isolated from any public exposure that might put them at risk. There are Influenza type A vaccines available and recommended for healthy swine -- something owners of Vietnamese Potbellies, African Pygmies and other pet pigs should consider.

The American Association of Swine Veterinarians suggests that visitors should not be allowed into swine production units, and for humans to avoid unnecessary contact with pigs. Because there are many causes of illness in pigs, if your pet pig is unwell, it is recommended to consult with your veterinarian.

A pig is washed at a farm on in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)

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