We’re all familiar with flu season and the shots, tissues, fevers, and pains that come with it. But did you know that dogs can get the flu too? And, like people, they can get sick any time of year, not just during designated seasons. The summer of 2015 has shown a resurgence of canine influenza, with new cases popping up in various states. So we thought we’d share some helpful info to create awareness about the virus and reduce some of the natural panic that is felt when beloved pets get sick.
What is the Dog Flu?
|The dog flu, or canine influenza virus, has occurred in the United States for about 10 years and includes two separate strains: H3N8, the first to be detected in 2005, and most recently, H3N2, which came to the U.S. in 2015 with documented cases in Chicago, Minnesota, North Carolina, and a few others (1). Both of these viruses impact the overall respiratory system in dogs and are highly contagious.|
While each case of canine influenza can vary, there are some telltale symptoms of the virus. According to Dr. Beth Jones of R.E.A.C.H., an Asheville-based, 24-hour animal hospital that specializes in veterinary medicine and pet surgeries, “the most common symptoms include cough, lethargy, and fever.” So, if you notice any unusual behaviors in your dog, like sluggishness, frequent coughing, or rapid respiration, contact your veterinarian for a checkup.
How is the Virus Spread?
|“We think one of the main reasons the virus has spread so quickly is because dogs can infect others before they start showing any symptoms,” says Dr. Jones. Furthermore, canine flu is contracted easily through contact with infected dogs or surfaces recently contaminated by the virus, including bowls and toys. Current research indicates that canine strains are not transmittable to humans, but there is a possibility the virus could affect the feline population (2).|
Tips for Prevention
If you suspect your pet is ill with the flu, reach out to your vet, as they can perform a test to determine the presence of the virus. For healthy pets, there are also steps you can take to best avoid infection. “If there are confirmed cases of flu in your area, avoid dog parks, daycare, groomers, and unnecessary vet appointments (like yearly checkups). The main goal is to get the virus under control by stopping the spread,” advises Dr. Jones.
Is there a Vaccine?
|Although there is a vaccine available for the earlier strain of canine flu (H3N8), its effectiveness against the new strain (H3N2) is still up in the air. “There is some belief that the current vaccine may be helpful, but it is too early in the process to know for sure. Even if your pet has been vaccinated, I would not recommend taking any chances,” says Dr. Jones.|
Caring for a Pup with the Virus
If your pet does get sick, your vet will prescribe the necessary medicines and provide precautions. This will likely include some cough medicine or an antibiotic, especially if your dog has a fever. In any case, make sure your pal gets plenty of rest and remains isolated until they are completely healed. According to Dr. Jones, “The good news is, most dogs get better quickly and the mortality rate for this virus is very low,” so talk to your vet and try not to panic. We think spoiling your pup with lots of extra love and attention is a pretty good idea too!