With dog flu, also known as canine influenza or canine flu, spreading rapidly across the United States, pet owners are becoming increasingly concerned about their own dogs. While canine flu is more common in places such as China and Thailand, occurrence had been relatively low in the United States until April 2014, when the first American case was reported. One year later, in April 2015, more than 1,000 dogs contracted the flu in Chicago and other Midwestern states; and the East Coast had 55 confirmed cases as of June 25, 2015. Cases have also been reported in Iowa, Indiana, and Massachusetts, and only continue to spread. It’s no wonder dog owners are as concerned as they are.
Being aware of the symptoms to look for will help you get your dog treatment as soon as possible; and knowing prevention tactics can keep them from ever contracting it at all.
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Symptoms of Dog Flu
A dog that is suffering from canine flu will experience many of the same symptoms that people do when they contract the flu. These are:
- Variable fever
- Nasal discharge, clear at first and turning to thick mucus of a yellow or green color
- Difficulty breathing
- Rapid breathing
- Loss of appetite
It’s important to note that many dogs can contract dog flu but never show any symptoms. For this reason it’s extremely important that you always keep a close eye on your dog’s health, especially if you live in area that’s been infected or you know of other dogs in the neighborhood that have contracted the flu.
Causes of Canine Flu
Unlike the influenza that people catch, there are only two viruses that cause canine flu – A H3N8 and A H3N2. While cats can also contract canine flu, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that only animals can contract the disease, and that it is not transmittable to humans.
If an animal comes into contact with another animal that has canine flu, the chances are very high that they will contract it. This is especially true if the animal shared toys with the infected animal, or if they sniffed them closely or were in very close contact with each other. Although humans cannot contract this type of flu, the virus can live on human skin for a significant amount of time and therefore, infect other animals.
Breeds Most at Risk for Canine Flu
There is no one breed that’s most at risk for canine flu, as any dog can easily contract it. Again, just like the flu in humans, elderly dogs and very young puppies are most at risk. Dogs that have very short noses such as pugs, French bulldogs, and Pekinese aren’t necessarily more likely to contract it, but they are more likely to suffer more severe complications because of their shorter respiratory tract.
Prognosis for Canine Flu
The good news is most dogs that contract the flu are back to their old, healthy selves within two or three weeks; and very few dogs pass away due to canine flu. If the illness turns into pneumonia, the condition can become much more dangerous so it’s important to speak to your vet and keep a very close eye on your pet any time they become visibly ill.
Treatment for Canine Flu
Just as there is no real cure or treatment for the flu humans contract, there is also no real cure or treatment for canine flu. It’s important that a dog sick with canine flu gets lots of rest and that they have access to plenty of water to keep them hydrated. The flu should clear up within a couple of weeks but if a bacterial infection sets in due to the flu, the vet will need to prescribe antibiotics to treat the secondary infection.
It can be very scary to see your pet suffering from dog flu, and make you feel very helpless as well, as there’s not a lot that can be done for this sickness. One of the best pieces of advice for dog owners is to try and prevent your pet from ever contracting the sickness in the first place. If there’s been an outbreak in your area, be sure to keep them away from places where large groups of dogs congregate. This includes kennels, dog parks, or homes where you know a sick dog lives. Likewise, if your dog gets sick be sure to keep them away from the same areas, and to warn any fellow dog lovers that yours is ill before allowing them to visit.
The most important thing you can do to prevent your pet from contracting canine flu is to get them vaccinated. Just like there’s a flu shot for the human flu, your dog can also receive a vaccine for canine flu. Also like the human vaccine, the flu shot for dogs doesn’t guarantee that your pet will not contract the illness, but it does lower the likeliness of occurrence. And if your pet does still contract the flu, having the flu shot will lessen the severity of the symptoms and the sickness time.