Though you may be familiar with flu outbreaks, did you know that your dog can catch the flu as well? Recent outbreaks of canine influenza across the country have many veterinarians asking patients to be mindful of their pet’s behavior and to bring them in if they show signs of illness to prevent the further spread of the virus. If you are a dog owner, no need to panic, but you should familiarize yourself with facts about the canine flu so that you can make sure your pet stays happy and healthy.
What is the Canine Influenza?
Canine influenza, also known as the dog flu, is an infectious respiratory disease caused by an influenza A virus. Two strains of the virus can cause canine influenza: H3N8 and H3N2. Both variants infect the respiratory system and are extremely contagious for dogs.
There are no reported cases of any humans having been infected with any variant of the canine influenza virus. Though it poses little to no threat to humans, dogs are 98% likely to catch the virus if they encounter an infected dog.
Signs and Symptoms
Common signs of canine influenza can include the following:
- Difficulty breathing
- Nasal discharge
- Reduced appetite
- Runny eyes
- Wet or dry cough
It is important to note that your dog may not display all these symptoms. Though most cases are mild, some can turn severe. In severe cases, pneumonia may develop, and your pet will need more immediate veterinary care.
If you suspect your dog has canine influenza, contact your veterinarian, and schedule an appointment immediately.
How Does Canine Influenza Spread?
Similar to human forms of the flu, canine influenza is an airborne virus that affects the respiratory system of the host. It can spread through respiratory droplets from coughing, barking, and sneezing. It can also spread through contaminated objects in the environment such as water and food bowls, collars, kennel surfaces, bedding, and toys.
Crowded areas such as grooming facilities, kennels, doggy daycares or hotels, and dog parks can be breeding grounds for canine influenza. If an outbreak is reported in your area, be sure to avoid areas frequented by other dog owners.
When going to the veterinarian be sure to mention your concerns as canine influenza is highly contagious. Your veterinarian may request that you wait outside until your appointment time to prevent spreading the virus within the waiting room.
Diagnosing canine influenza can be difficult without a veterinarian as the virus shares some symptoms associated with kennel cough. Your vet can conduct a physical examination and order any additional tests needed to confirm a diagnosis.
Treatment focuses on supporting your dog and keeping them comfortable during recovery.
In mild cases, cough suppressants may be given as well as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication to reduce any fever. If any secondary infection has developed as a result of the flu, antibiotics will also be administered.
Rest and isolation from other dogs are also key components to canine influenza treatment. Most vets recommend quarantine for a minimum of 21 days to reduce the risk of transmission and ensure a proper recovery.
In severe cases, your pet may be treated with fluids, broad-spectrum antibiotics, and supportive in-hospital care. Some cases can lead to pneumonia which can become serious and deadly when untreated.
Your vet will also discuss appropriate quarantine procedures to prevent the spread of the virus within your home and can give you information on pet-safe disinfectant solutions to help kill the virus in your home. All surfaces, clothing, leashes, collars, equipment, bedding, toys, and serving bowls need to be disinfected.
There is a vaccine available for each strain. If you live in an area where outbreaks may be common or plan to travel with your pet a lot, your veterinarian may recommend the vaccine for your dog as a precaution.
The best way to prevent your dog from contracting canine flu is to keep him away from public areas such as dog-friendly parks and restaurants as well as kennels when recent cases are reported in the area. This will reduce your pet’s risk.
By knowing what to look for and what steps to take if you suspect your dog is ill, you can better care for your beloved furry friend. For more information on the canine flu or to schedule an appointment, contact St. Matthews Animal Clinic today.