You may have seen news of a canine influenza epidemic spreading across the country. But should you be worried about your pooch? Can your dog pass the flu virus to you? How can you protect your four-legged friend?
This first and most important fact to note is that there is no need to panic. Knowledge is power. So, know the facts and take informed action on behalf of your pet.
That said, here are seven things you need to know about canine influenza:
What is canine influenza?
Also known as canine influenza virus (CIV) or the dog flu, canine influenza is a respiratory disease that affects dogs. There are two strands of the dog flu: H3N8 and H3N2.
The latter strand is what is currently infecting canines across the United States. While most cases have occurred in the Chicago area, confirmed cases have also been reported in Georgia, Wisconsin, Iowa, and at least one dog in the Houston, TX area has tested positive.
What are the symptoms of the dog flu?
- Variable fever
- Clear nasal discharge that progresses into thick, green mucus
- Rapid or difficulty breathing
- Loss of appetite
While death in dogs with canine influenza is rare, it is possible. If you think your pooch has the dog flu, immediately isolate her from other pets and take her to the vet.
How do dogs get the flu?
The dog flu is spread through coughs, sneezes or direct contact of respiratory secretions of an infected dog. Contact with clothing, equipment, surfaces and human hands that have interacted with an infected dog can also carry the disease, although the virus survives longer in the air than it does on these surfaces.
Can all dogs get the flu virus?
Yes, all dogs are susceptible to the dog flu virus.
However, dogs that spend extended time in the shelter or at a boarding facility, doggy daycare, or dog park face an increased risk of contracting the disease simply due to consistent, close contact with other dogs.
Is canine influenza passed between dogs and humans?
According to the CDC, there is no evidence that canine influenza can be passed from dogs to humans.
How is canine influenza treated?
Similar to the flu that us humans suffer from, there is no ‘cure’ for the dog flu.
That being said, a veterinarian can treat the symptoms using supportive care to help the infected dog mount an immune response. In this case, a vet may prescribe one of the following to put your pup at ease while the illness runs its course:
- Good nutrition and supplements to help raise immunity
- A warm, quiet and comfortable place to rest
- Medications to treat any secondary infections
- Intravenous fluids to protect from dehydration
- Workup and treatment for pneumonia, if applicable
How can I protect my dog?
There is an approved vaccination for one strand of canine influenza, but it is unknown if this vaccine will protect against all strands. Talk with your veterinarian to determine if this is the right choice for you and your dog.
Whether or not you decide on a vaccination, there are other preventative measures you can take:
- Be vigilant when on walks or at the dog park to ensure your pet does not interact with one you suspect might be infected.
- Keep close watch for symptoms listed above and hold on to medical or boarding records.
- Examine your pet’s diet to ensure optimal nutrition, as this may help ward off the disease in the first place.
Again, the relatively moderate symptoms and rarity of dog flu in Texas indicate that pet parents should currently be no more concerned about the dog flu than any other infectious disease your furry friend may contract.
But, the more who are aware of the signs of dog flu, the quicker our community can stifle the sickness. Let’s prevent the spread of this disease here in Austin–be sure to share with fellow pet parents!