Hendra virus and domestic animals - Frequently Asked Questions
Can companion animals become infected with Hendra virus?
One dog in Queensland (2011) and one dog in NSW (2013) have tested positive for Hendra virus.
Both cases were on properties where Hendra virus infection had been confirmed in horses and followed close contact between the horse and dog.
Cats, pigs, guinea pigs and ferrets have also developed infection with Hendra virus in laboratory conditions only. None of these species have become infected with the Hendra virus naturally.
Under the joint Queensland-NSW Hendra taskforce, research is currently underway on a range of issues, including the transmission of the virus to dogs.
The Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute is leading a $900,000 study looking at virology issues, including new state-of-the-art testing techniques and how various animals, including horses, dogs and cats, contract and respond to the deadly disease.
CSIRO’s Australian Animal Health Laboratory is also leading a project looking at the transmission and impacts of Hendra virus in dogs.
Can my dog catch Hendra virus through direct contact with flying foxes?
The two dogs that have tested positive for Hendra virus are believed to have been infected via close contact with an infected horse. The risk of a dog being infected by direct contact with a flying foxes (including flying fox faeces, urine or eating or playing with a flying fox) appears extremely low. Research is continuing to increase our understanding of the transmission of Hendra virus between flying foxes, horses, dogs and humans.
What should I do with other animals on my property if my horse is sick?
Sick horses be isolated and separated from all other animals on the property (including dogs, cats and other horses).
How does a dog catch Hendra virus from a horse?
Current knowledge indicates dogs may be infected with Hendra virus by having close contact with a live or dead horse infected with Hendra virus.
Research is continuing to increase the understanding of how Hendra virus is transmitted between species.
Good hygiene practices should always be applied when dealing with sick or dead horses.
Owners should prevent dogs from having contact with sick horses, or their body fluids or wastes.
Can my dog get Hendra virus from eating horse manure?
The likelihood of a dog becoming infected with Hendra virus from eating horse manure is minimal. Dogs should be discouraged from eating horse manure as a general biosecurity precaution, especially if the horse is sick. This is a preventative measure for many diseases and parasitic infections.
Can my dog catch Hendra virus from eating fruit or nuts found under a tree where flying foxes are active?
There is no evidence to suggest that dogs can become infected with Hendra virus from ingesting fallen fruit or nuts from trees where flying foxes are active. However palm nuts may cause problems if ingested (e.g. gastrointestinal tract obstruction).
What do I do if flying foxes fly over or visit my yard where I keep my dogs?
As a general biosecurity and hygiene precaution, you should prevent dogs from having direct contact with flying foxes (alive or dead) to minimise the risk of the dog's exposure to disease and injury.
How do I protect my dog or cat?
The Department of Primary Industries (DPI) recommends that people keep all domestic animals away from sick or dead horses (suspect Hendra virus cases) and areas contaminated with their urine or faeces, to reduce the possible risk of exposure to the virus. It is good biosecurity to keep healthy animals away from sick ones, regardless of the cause of the illness.
What biosecurity measures are in place for companion animals?
DPI’s policy is to routinely test companion animals that have had close contact with an infected horse. Any properties on which Hendra virus is identified are quarantined and movement restrictions are imposed on all domestic animals, including dogs and cats.
If there is a horse carcass on my property, what should I do with my other pets?
If a horse has died on your property for any reason, you should prevent all animals, including dogs and cats, from coming into contact with the carcass or body fluids from the dead horse.
What should I do if I find a dead or injured bat?
Never touch or pick up a flying fox. Contact WIRES on 13 00 094 737.
If the bat has bitten or scratched an animal, such as a dog or cat, contact your private veterinarian.
For more information on Bats and health risks see Bats and health risks.
More Questions and Answers can be found on our General Hendra Virus - Frequently Asked Questions page.