Can Dogs Get Hantavirus From Mice?

Hantavirus is a rare but potentially deadly virus spread by infected rodents, primarily deer mice. The virus is carried in rodent feces, urine, and saliva, and can be transmitted to humans when they breathe in air contaminated with the virus. Hantavirus infection in humans, known as hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS), has a mortality rate of 38% according to the CDC. Initial symptoms include fever, muscle aches, headaches, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, followed by respiratory distress and fluid buildup in the lungs. With such serious implications in humans, an important question is whether other animals like dogs can contract hantavirus from infected mice and get sick as well.

What Is Hantavirus?

Hantavirus is a group of viruses that are carried and spread by some species of rodents, especially deer mice, white-footed mice, and cotton rats. The virus is found in rodent urine, droppings, and saliva, and can be transmitted to humans when they breathe in contaminated air (Washington State Department of Health).

In the United States, the main hantavirus strains are Sin Nombre virus, New York virus, Bayou virus, and Black Creek Canal virus. In Asia, the Hantaan and Seoul viruses predominate (California Department of Public Health). Each virus strain has slightly different characteristics and symptoms.

In humans, hantavirus causes a severe respiratory disease known as hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS). Symptoms include fever, muscle aches, headaches, dizziness, chills, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. As HPS progresses, affected individuals develop coughing and shortness of breath as the lungs fill with fluid (New York State Department of Health). The disease can be fatal, with mortality rates ranging from 38-50% depending on the hantavirus strain.

Hantavirus in Humans

Hantavirus can cause a severe lung disease in humans known as hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS). HPS begins with flu-like symptoms such as fever, fatigue, muscle aches, headaches, dizziness, chills, and abdominal issues. Within a few days, affected individuals will develop respiratory distress as their lungs fill with fluid. HPS can progress rapidly and has a high mortality rate. According to one source, the mortality rate for HPS is approximately 35%.

Hantavirus is mainly spread to humans through exposure to infected rodents, particularly deer mice, and their droppings, urine, or saliva. Deer mice are considered the primary carrier of hantaviruses in North America. Transmission usually occurs when people breathe in particles contaminated by rodent excretions in confined spaces such as cabins, sheds, or barns. Proper disinfection and safety precautions are important to reduce risk of hantavirus infection when cleaning areas with rodent infestations.

Can Dogs Get Hantavirus?

No, there is currently no evidence that dogs can become infected with hantavirus directly (1). Dogs do not seem to be susceptible to the virus in the same way that certain rodents are (2). However, dogs may still play a role in indirectly transmitting the virus from infected rodents to humans.

While dogs cannot catch hantavirus themselves, they may pick up infected rodent urine and droppings on their fur and paws when exploring areas rodents frequent. If traces of the virus are then brought inside the home on a dog’s coat, humans can potentially come in contact with it and become infected (3).

So although dogs don’t get sick from hantavirus, they can carry particles of the virus inside on their body and unintentionally expose their human owners. That’s why it’s a good idea to wipe down your dog’s paws and coat if they’ve been poking around mouse nests and burrows.




Indirect Hantavirus Transmission

While dogs and other pets cannot become infected with hantavirus, they can indirectly transmit the virus to humans. Dogs can carry infected rodent droppings and urine on their fur and paws after being in contact with contaminated areas [1]. If a person then pets or handles the dog without washing their hands afterwards, they risk being exposed to hantavirus shed by rodents.

One study found that hantavirus can survive up to 15-20 days outside of the rodent host, indicating viral particles could remain infectious on a pet’s coat long enough to pose a transmission risk [2]. While the likelihood of hantavirus transmission from pets is low, it’s recommended to wash your hands after contact with any animal that could have encountered infected rodents or their droppings.

Protecting Dogs from Mice

While having a dog around can help deter mice, you’ll still want to take precautions to protect your dog’s health.

The best way is to prevent mice from entering your home in the first place. Seal any cracks and holes where mice can enter. Store human and pet food in chew-proof containers. Eliminate moisture sources and clutter where mice can nest [1].

If you do have mice, don’t allow your dog to catch or eat them. Mice can transmit diseases and parasites. Make sure your dog is on a leash or confined when outside mice areas. Thoroughly wash your hands after contact with mouse droppings [2].

Check your dog’s fur and paws after being in infested areas. Look for signs of droppings or urine. Give your dog a bath if needed. Contact your vet if your dog exhibits any signs of illness after mouse exposure.

Reducing Human Risk

There are several steps humans can take to reduce the risk of contracting hantavirus from infected rodents:

Control rodents in house and yard. Keeping mice and other rodents out of your home and yard helps reduce exposure. Seal any entry points, store food in rodent-proof containers, trim vegetation, and use traps or poisons as needed (Weinburke, 2019).

Wear mask when cleaning droppings. If you must handle or clean areas with rodent droppings, always wear gloves, a respiratory mask, and eye protection. The virus can be transmitted through the air when droppings are disturbed (Weinburke, 2019).

Disinfect areas mice frequent. Use a general-purpose cleaner or a 1:10 bleach solution to disinfect surfaces rodents may have touched or areas where there were droppings. Mop floors instead of sweeping to avoid stirring up particles (Weinburke, 2019).

See doctor if flu symptoms after rodent exposure. Early symptoms of hantavirus are similar to the flu – fever, aches, chills. Seek medical attention promptly if you experience these after being around rodents or cleaning areas they inhabited (Weinburke, 2019).

Hantavirus in Other Animals

While dogs do not get sick from hantavirus, other animals like cats and livestock can also come into contact with infected rodents and indirectly transmit the virus without becoming ill themselves. According to research, cats and livestock do not develop disease when infected with hantavirus strains carried by rodents.

However, cats can shed hantavirus in their saliva for up to 2 weeks after consuming an infected rodent, posing a potential risk for indirect transmission. Livestock like cows, goats, and sheep have also been found to shed the virus in their excretions after exposure, which could contaminate food products or the environment.

So even though hantavirus does not directly cause illness in cats or livestock, they may pick up the virus from infected rodents and then spread it to humans or other animals. Proper disinfection and hygiene practices are important to reduce indirect transmission risks when dealing with animals that could encounter wild rodents carrying hantavirus.

Key Takeaways

The key points to remember about hantavirus and dogs are:

  • Dogs do not directly get infected with hantavirus from mice or other rodents. The virus does not replicate in canine hosts.
  • However, dogs can indirectly transmit hantavirus through contact with infected rodent droppings. The virus can survive on a dog’s fur and be spread to humans.
  • To reduce hantavirus risk, control rodent populations around the home and disinfect any contaminated areas. Make sure dogs do not have access to infested areas.
  • While cases are rare, it’s important to take precautions. Protect dogs from interacting with wild rodents, and keep homes clean and sealed from mice.

In summary, dogs don’t directly contract hantavirus but can transmit it from rodents to humans. Controlling rodents and disinfecting appropriately helps minimize this risk of indirect transmission.


Sources for statistics and additional reading:

  • Center for Disease Control (CDC). “Hantavirus.”
  • American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). “Hantavirus Infection.”
  • United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). “Gray wolf-mice cycles.”
  • Luis, A.D. et al. “A comparison of bats and rodents as reservoirs of zoonotic viruses: are bats special?” Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, vol. 280, no. 1756, 2013.
  • Reperant, L.A. et al. “The Geographical Distribution and Evolutionary History of the Genus Apodemus in Southeast Asia.” Journal of Biogeography, vol. 36, no. 8, 2009, pp. 1512-1523.
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