Just when swine flu appears to be on the decline, the tenacious virus has reached New Yorkers in a new way: by infecting their pets.
A 13-year old mixed breed dog in White Plains was diagnosed this month with the H1N1 virus, the same strain of flu which has killed thousands of people in 2009.
The good news: the dog, admitted to Katonah Bedford Veterinary Center with breathing problems on December 13, is doing much better.
Health officials say there appears to be a small risk that people who have the flu can spread it to their pets.
Dr. Ann Hohenhaus of the Animal Medical Center in Manhattan says the best advice is simple.
"If you have the flu don't pet your pet without washing your hands," she said.
Dog owners are divided about whether to change their habits. Some said cuddling with their puppy helps them feel better while under the weather. "i'd be worried about passing it onto him but there are other things I'm more worried about," said Natasha Brown, walking Filo in Central Park.
But Arik Ng, out in the snow with little Mozart, said he'll practice extra hygiene if he gets sick. "For me naturally I do tend to keep my distance," said Ng. "And it would include my pet."