- Not a substitute for professional veterinary help.
Reports of an outbreak of dog flu can be scary. Certain strains are highly contagious among cats and dogs, and as a loving pet parent, you want to be careful. Fortunately, there’s a lot you can do to keep your dog safe and sound during an outbreak. Here’s everything you need to know about canine influenza, aka the dog flu.
What is Canine Influenza?
- A highly contagious respiratory infection of dogs that usually presents itself as a hacking cough.
- In the US, the two virus strains responsible for most cases are H3N2 and H3N8
- Scientists think H3N2 jumped species from birds to dogs. This virus strain made it’s way from Asia in 2015, first landing in Chicago.
- H3N8 jumped species from racehorses to racing Greyhounds in Florida in 2004. Since then, this strain has been found across the United States.
How is Dog Flu Transmitted?
- By direct contact with infected dogs—such as petting—and by aerosol spread of respiratory secretions generated by coughing and sneezing.
- The canine influenza virus can be spread via contaminated objects like crates, food and water bowls, collars and leashes, and the skin and clothing of people handling infected dogs.
- Flu viruses can live on contaminated surfaces for up to 48 hours.
- Symptoms may not appear in an infected dog for up to 8 days, causing unintended exposure.
- Flu viruses are expert mutators. That’s why the flu shot for humans is different every year. That’s also why the flu shot may not catch every flu virus out there.
Who is at risk for Dog Flu?
- Dogs of any age and breed are susceptible to this infection, but dogs who are especially young or old are most likely to contract it.
- Cats can also carry and transmit most strains of canine flu.
- The virus does not cause the disease in humans.
What Are the Symptoms of Dog Flu?
- A loud or “honking” cough
- Loss of appetite
- Variable fever
- Clear nasal discharge
- Eye discharge that progresses from clear liquid to thick, yellowish-green mucus
- Rapid or difficulty breathing
- Lethargy/lack of energy
Image via flickr
How Can I Prevent the Canine Influenza Virus from Spreading?
- Wash your hands, clothes, and dog belongings with soap and water.
- Note that the virus can stay on your hands and clothes for up to 24 hours, so it’s important to wash your hands before and after petting animals.
- Pay attention to alerts in your area if there is an outbreak of dog flu, and take measures to protect your dog. For instance, avoiding communal water sources at the dog park is one preventative step.
- Be aware of other dogs. If a dog appears to be coughing or visibly ill, prevent your dog from approaching it.
Is there a Dog Flu Shot?
There is a vaccine for both strains of dog flu available. Some facilities such as doggy daycares, dog hotels, and other boarding facilities may require the vaccination. Some vets also recommend it for dogs that are frequently in an enclosed environment with a significant amount of other dogs such as a kennel or have health conditions that make dog flu more dangerous.
Whether to have your dog vaccinated for the flu is of course between you and your vet, and they can better inform you if your dog is a good candidate for the canine influenza vaccine.
What Do I Do If I Think My Dog Has Canine Influenza?
- Contact your vet or the nearest animal hospital immediately with any questions or concerns about symptoms your dog is showing.
- If you make a vet appointment, you may be asked to avoid the waiting room or enter through a separate door to avoid spreading the virus.
- Keep your dog separate from other animals, including cats for 4 weeks.
- If your dog is infected, practice good biosecurity, such as:
- Wash your hands thoroughly after touching your sick animal and before touching any other pets in your household.
- Wash food and water dishes at least daily in hot water with plenty of soap.
- Clean bedding, towels, and even your clothes if exposed to the virus (ie: coughed on, slobbered on) with a through antiviral cleaner like bleach or Pinesol.
- Make sure your dog stays comfortable while he fights off the virus. A humidifier can help with coughing. Get more old-fashioned cough remedies for dogs right here.
- What if it’s not the flu? Here’s the 411 on dog colds, kennel cough and more.
The Good News
With the correct diagnosis, the vast majority of dogs will recover within two weeks without any further health complications. Keep an eye out for symptoms, take basic precautions, and call your vet with any questions. You’ll rest assured you’re taking great care of your best friend.
Top image via flickr