This year, many dog flu cases have been reported in certain areas of the United States. Here is a guide to help you understand what the dog flu is, and how to keep your dog safe.
What is the Dog Flu?
Canine Influenza (CI), is a highly contagious respiratory disease that has been spreading through dogs in the United States. The disease is a Type A influenza, and is known to infect dogs and other animals. There have been no reports of humans contracting canine influenza. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be careful around the virus. This disease is ever changing and adapting and could infect humans in the future.
Causes and History of the Dog Flu
There are two strands that cause the dog flu:
H3N8 originated from equine influenza, or horse flu virus. Although this virus has been around for more than 40 years, things changed in 2004.
Cases started showing up in greyhound race dogs in the United States. After an investigation, they attributed these breakouts to an adapted strand of the H3N8. It’s believed that the strand adapted to start infecting dogs and is now even considered ‘dog specific’.
H3N2 is a newer strand of the flu virus, discovered in the United States in 2015. This strand also adapted to infect dogs, from the avian flu virus. Since 2015, thousands of dogs have been infected with the virus.
The virus was identified in parts of Asia in the early parts of 2000’s, although it’s unknown how it spread to the States.
Signs and Symptoms
There are two forms that have been seen to infect dogs.
Dogs that suffer from mild form dog flu will have similar symptoms to humans. These symptoms include:
- Runny nose
- Eye discharge
- Lack of appetite
- Shortness of breath
Some dogs have been known to show very little, or no signs of the flu.
Symptoms of a severe form of the flu suffer from serious issues, that include:
- High fever (above104 f)
- Serious cough
- Trouble breathing
Dog’s that contract pneumonia may start coughing up blood if the alveoli are infected. This will lead to trouble breathing and can quickly escalate.
If you find your dog showing symptoms of the flu, such as coughing, it’s important to see your veterinarian for a consultation.
Preventing the Dog Flu
The dog flu is often spread because of lack of sanitation. Here are some tips for preventing the spread of the dog flu.
1. Wash your hands with soap and water after touching other dogs. It may not always be apparent if another dog has the flu, so it’s important to wash your hands after touching a dog. This will help the flu from spreading to your own dog, or other dogs.
2. Wash your clothes after interacting with other dogs. Again, the flu is very contagious and will spread from touch. If possible, wash your clothes and change before interacting with your dog.
3. Consider a vaccination. There are vaccinations available for H3N8. It is not known if these vaccinations help protect against H3N2, though. The dog flu vaccination is known as a lifestyle vaccination, which means you should administer based on the risk of exposure to the flu. There are also H3N2 vaccinations available, but it’s important to consult a vet to see which is best for your dog.
4. Keep hard surfaces clean. The flu can stay on hard surfaces for up to 48 hours. It’s important to try to disinfect common hard surfaces in your house.
5. Stay away from dogs that show symptoms. Obviously, if you’re going out with your dog, be hesitant about dog-to-dog interaction.
6. Stay away from areas with reported flu breakouts. If you know your area is having a problem with the dog flu, stay away from public areas. This includes dog kennels and dog parks.
7. If your dog is affected, keep them isolated. Do everyone a favor and keep your dog at home if they are sick. This will help limit the number of infections and the spread of the dog flu.
Treating The Dog Flu
Treating the dog flu is mostly straightforward. Firstly, you need to talk to your vet to see what the best option is for you. They may offer you broad-spectrum antibiotics, depending on the severity of your dog’s symptoms. Antiinflammatory may be given, depending on the case. Next, you’ll need to keep your dog isolated to limit the spread of the virus. From there, the dog needs to rest and stay hydrated. Making sure they have a comfortable area to rest, and easy access to water is essential.
Recovery can take up to 3 weeks, and they can be contagious for weeks after. Be careful, some dogs may develop secondary bacterial infections which can lead to more severe illness and pneumonia.
Giving your dog supplements and good nutrition to help boost their immune system is a good idea. If you consider this option, ask your vet first.