Can you pick up your pet’s snuffle? Pete the Vet on Newstalk’s Pat Kenny Show Podcast

Worried about getting a cold from your cat? Wondering about getting your dog insured? Listen to the podcast below to find out more.

1) Can dogs and cats pass colds on to humans?

Is it possible for pets to catch a human cold or for a human to get a respiratory infection from a dog or cat?
The answer is that it’s highly unlikely. Some immunocompromised humans could, in theory, pick up a mild infection of Bordetella from a dog with Kennel Cough but it’s exceptionally rare. Cat flu is definitely not transferable to humans. In general, it makes hygienic sense not to stick your face into the face of an animal with a respiratory infection but even if you do, you are unlikely to pick up anything nasty

Do pets get infections that resemble colds?

  • Dogs can get Kennel Cough, a nasty cough, sometimes with runny eyes and nose too. It is caused by a combination of a virus and a bacteria.It does need treatment as in some animals (puppies, elderly dogs) especially it has the potential to be fatal. It spreads rapidly from dog to dog via coughing so when dogs are going to share air space (eg boarding kennels) it makes sense to get them vaccinated beforehand.
  • Cats can get cat flu, with runny eyes and sneezing, as well as sometimes coughing. It’s caused by one of two viruses (Herpes virus and Calici virus) and can be prevented by vaccination.
  • Any animal with these types of signs should be taken to the vet. Treatment can shorten the course of these diseases and reduce the risk of complications

2) Pet insurance for pets

Pet insurance has been in Ireland for nearly twenty years now. The principle is that you pay a small sum (€15 to 30) euros a month to the insurance company, and if your pet falls ill or has an accident, the insurance company covers the costs of the vets’ fees. Pet insurance is a great way to plan for the unexpected. People sometimes say that you should just save that much money every month instead so that you have a war chest ready to go in case of a crisis, and while that may work if your pet does not get ill for a number of years, it doesn’t cover the type of situation where your young dog falls seriously ill or has an accident.

Some examples from the last month in my own clinic:

  • a young dog eating a dishtowel that got stuck inside its intestines: bill of over €1000
  • a one year old dog that fractured its elbow: bill of over €2000 for the orthopaedic operation
  • a two year old cat that was hit by a car, suffering a ruptured diaphragm: bill over €1500

These owners all had to pay the excess of €80-100., but the rest of their costs were covered in full by the insurance company.

In older pets, insurance companies generally ask for a bigger excess e.g. €100 plus one third of the balance. This is fair enough as there is a very high chance that most older pets will fall ill at some stage e.g. cancer, kidney failure etc
You cannot generally get a pet insured once they are older than eight years of age, but if you have them insured from before that date, you can continue to keep them insured with the same company

It’s important not to put off insurance for too long: if your pet develops a problem (e.g. skin disease) and you then get them insured, they will never be covered for skin disease, as it was a pre existing condition.

Pet insurance is a great idea but you need to do your research right to get the best value. If you just choose the cheapest premium, you may lose out, as all insurance companies are not the same, and the small print can contain clauses that mean that the pay out may not be what you expect. The best advice is to spend an hour or so looking into this in detail before signing up: you can download a free guide to dog insurance in Ireland.

The main insurance companies are Allianz (the longest established),, An Post Pet Insurance, and

3) Health care plans

Health care plans are a new concept that’s becoming popular. They are generally run by vets in their own clinics. Essentially you pay a monthly amount (again, from €15 to 30) and this provides you with all of the routine pet care that you need from your vet, including flea and tick control, wormers, and vaccinations as needed. Sometimes by signing up, you also qualify for a discount on the vet’s consultation and surgery fees. Many people find that schemes like these help them to budget, and in many cases, they do save money. Compared to “pay as you go” prices, saving are often around 25% using these plans.
Some plans even include free visits – means owners can go in as often as they like and not worry about paying a consultation fee. There will be costs if further treatment or investigations are needed for a sick pet, but having access to the first line of advice from a vet for free can be very reassuring to worried pet owners. If you want to know about schemes like these, talk to your own vet, and if they don’t have one, phone around to find out who does. .

Questions about pets from listeners

The following questions were asked by listeners – listen to the podcast below for the answers

  • My 8 year old male neutered tabby cat recently has developed a pink area of flabby skin on his lower abdomen over the last few months. It also hangs in a way resembling an udder. The vet prescribed steroids on the presumption that it was a rash, but discontinued them after two weeks because they had made no difference. Why do you think my cat has pink skin and an “udder”?
  • I unintentionally let insurance on my 8 now 9 year old retriever lapse and now can’t get cover- do any companies insure older dogs – healthy dog cared for by same vet gets all vaccinations etc
  • Our cat has started scratching the furniture and can’t stop him. Think he does for attention and believes it works as I run over to stop him every time & looks delighted with himself. Any tips?
  • My 5 yr old Cavachon has only over the last year started barking at his dried food in any dish and will growl and bark until we pour the food out of the dish on to the floor. He will drink water or eat chicken and rice no problem out of the dish. Why would this be . We have tried putting food onto flat dish or table mat etc but it doesn’t work. He also takes the food bit by bit and moves away from the food. Thanks for any advice. Orla
  • My female dog, a mixed lab breed, now has no control over her bladder. Please help Catherine
  • My nine month old miniature dachshund will not eat his nuts and has got a taste for human food. He will out wait me for the whole day so as to get some cooked chicken. Can you recommend some meats which are okay to give a puppy. Also he loves to bury raw bones and dig them up the next day how long is it ok to allow him to eat that type of meat.

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Please note that I am unable to answer veterinary questions in comments. If you have questions or concerns about your pet's health it is always better to contact your vet.

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