Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: We are currently updating information following recent Queensland and Australian Government announcements. Find assistance and support for coronavirus affected businesses and industries.

Hendra virus in dogs and other animals

Naturally occurring infection has only been observed in horses, flying foxes, humans and dogs. In animals, evidence of naturally occurring clinical disease is limited to horses at this stage.

While cats, guinea pigs, ferrets, hamsters, mice, African green monkeys and pigs have been infected with Hendra virus experimentally, it has not been known to occur naturally in these animals. (Note: It is illegal to keep ferrets in Queensland.)

Dogs and Hendra virus infection

In July 2011, a dog was naturally exposed to Hendra virus on a property in Queensland where several horses were infected with the virus. Test results confirmed the presence of antibodies to Hendra virus and the dog did not show any signs of ill health.

This was the first reported case of Hendra virus antibody detection in a dog outside of an experimental setting.

In July 2013, another dog from a property in New South Wales where a horse was confirmed as infected with Hendra virus was also confirmed as infected with the virus.

How to reduce the chance of your dog becoming infected with Hendra virus

Current knowledge indicates dogs may become infected with Hendra virus from close contact with a living or dead horse that is infected with the virus. Owners should prevent dogs from having contact with sick horses.

There is no current evidence that dogs can be infected from:

  • flying foxes
  • palm nuts (or other fallen fruit) from trees where flying foxes are active
  • horse manure.

However, you should discourage your dogs from eating or accessing these sources. This is a preventative measure for many diseases. Palm nuts can also cause problems if ingested (e.g. gastrointestinal tract obstruction).

Testing requirements

We conduct risk assessments on properties where animals are confirmed to be infected with Hendra virus to determine if dogs or other animals should be tested. Dogs will only be tested if they've had close contact with confirmed Hendra virus infected animals.

It is not a general policy to conduct Hendra virus tests on all animals on an infected property unless they have had close contact with a confirmed Hendra virus-infected animal.

Transmission to humans

Research work at the Australian Animal Health Laboratory concluded that there is the potential for transmission of Hendra virus to people from acutely infected dogs. The research showed that most infected dogs in the trial did not show any signs of illness at a time when they were shedding Hendra virus.

You must take appropriate precautions around dogs known to be infected with Hendra virus, and around dogs that have been in close contact with other animals suspected or known to be infected with Hendra virus.

If your dog is sick

Consult a private veterinarian regarding your pet's health. Be sure to tell your veterinarian if your dog has been in contact with a sick horse where Hendra virus is confirmed or suspected.