With the colder months approaching, humans are not the only ones who can catch the flu, your dog can too! Coughing canine? Drowsy doggie? As cases of canine influenza (dog flu) have been confirmed in an increasing number of U.S. states, many dog caretakers have been left to wonder if their dog has a basic cold or if it could be the dog flu.
What is the dog flu?
The dog flu is a highly contagious viral infection that is spread through respiratory secretions when an infected dog barks, coughs, or sneezes. The virus can live on objects, like toys, food bowls, leashes, and clothing, for up to 48 hours. Despite its name, the dog flu can also affect cats, although that is less common.
Dogs that have contact with other dogs, especially at places where groups of dogs congregate, like boarding facilities, doggie daycares, and dog parks, are at highest risk of contracting the flu.
Twenty percent of dogs exposed to the virus will not show signs of illness, but they could still be carriers of the virus and spread it to other dogs.
Signs of dog flu
Mild cases of dog flu will result in:
- A cough that can last up to a month
- Increased eye and nasal discharge
Dogs that develop a more serious form of the infection might experience a high fever. The virus can also progress to pneumonia, which could lead to difficulty breathing and the need for supplemental oxygen and other medical support. A small percentage of dogs who get the flu will succumb to the virus.
Diagnosis and treatment of dog flu
If your dog is showing signs of canine influenza, call us immediately. To avoid spreading the flu, do not bring your dog in to our office without notifying us first. To confirm the flu, we may conduct a nasal swab test.
If your dog has the flu, we will offer supportive care when appropriate, like anti-nausea medications, fluids, and antibiotics to treat possible secondary bacterial infections. There is no cure for canine influenza, so we will recommend that you keep your pup hydrated, help him get plenty of rest, and keep him away from other dogs for about four weeks after recovery to prevent spreading the virus.
Preventing dog flu
There are vaccines to protect dogs against both strains of dog flu currently affecting pets in the U.S. and Canada—H3N8 and H3N2. A booster is required after the vaccine is administered, so it’s important to plan accordingly. The dog flu can be prevented if you are proactive about vaccines.
Questions about protecting your pup against canine influenza? Call our office.