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If you haven’t heard, a canine flu outbreak is spreading across the nation leaving plenty of pups feeling down in the dumps.
What Is Canine Flu?
The dog flu, or Canine Influenza Virus (CIV H3N2 or H3N8), is a highly contagious infection caused by an influenza virus and is transmitted by aerosolized respiratory secretions — think coughing and sneezing. Dog influenza can also be transmitted between dogs via contaminated objects such as food and water bowls, collars, leashes, toys, bedding, and through nose-to-nose contact between dogs. The virus is able to live on surfaces for up to 48 hours, on clothing for 24 hours and on hands for up to 12 hours. Dogs that are most susceptible to infection are those that spend a good deal of time around many other dogs during boarding, day care or play time at the dog park.
A Few Dog Flu Facts
- Dog flu is not usually fatal. Death rate is reported to be less than 10% among flu-infected dogs.
- The flu needs to run its course (15-30 days for mild cases). Treatment for canine flu is mostly supportive: fluids, rest and cough medicine prescribed by your vet. (Please don’t give human meds to dogs.) Very severe cases may require hospitalization or more intensive therapies.
- There is now a vaccine for both the H3N2 and the older H3N8 strains. Talk to your vet about the best option for you and your pup, especially if they spend a lot of time around other dogs.
- You can’t catch the flu from your dog. Nope, not a chance. So go ahead and give your pup lots of TLC!
- The 2015 canine flu outbreak (H3N2) has been traced back to Chicago.
- May 2017: Canine flu H3N2 had shown up in dogs in Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.
Dog Flu Symptoms
It’s important to recognize the symptoms of dog flu so you can seek treatment for your pet quickly. “Most infected dogs have mild clinical symptoms and it can be very hard to distinguish from other forms of canine infectious respiratory disease complex (CIRD), a common type of kennel cough,” says Carrie Jelovich, DVM. So if your dog shows any of these symptoms, visit your veterinarian so they can test to confirm whether or not your dog has Canine Influenza H3N2.
Canine flu symptoms may include:
- Persistent cough
- Nasal discharge – not just your dog’s normal wet nose
- Eye discharge – look for goopy, mucus-like discharge or a noticeable increase if your dog normally has eye discharge
- Reduced appetite
- Reduced activity, lethargy
Preventing Dog Flu
You may notice warning signs about the canine flu popping up at doggie daycares, boarding facilities, dog parks, veterinarian’s offices and even dog-friendly businesses. And for good reason: prevention is the best cure.
Here’s what you can do to help keep your pup from catching the bug and control the outbreak:
- Stay home! Don’t you get annoyed when someone shows up to work hacking and sneezing all over the place? The same applies here: if your pooch is showing symptoms of dog flu, or has been diagnosed with canine influenza, keep them home and away from other dogs until they’re well. For the time being, you may want to limit your dog’s contact with other canines and avoid places where canine flu has been reported.
- Speak up! If you absolutely must bring your dog to daycare or a boarding facility, ask if they’ve had any cases of dog flu and what they’re doing to prevent it from spreading. And visit your vet a few weeks prior to travel to determine whether the vaccine is a good option.
- Wash your paws! If you can’t help petting every dog you see, wash up well before you spread the love – and the virus – to your own dog.
Here’s a recap of everything we’ve discussed and a little more about this flu and what to look out for from National Geographic.
A big, tail-wagging thank you to Carrie Jelovich, DVM, for her contributions to this article in July 2015. Dr. Jelovich cares for critters at the Lawndale Veterinary Hospital in Greensboro, North Carolina.
Are you concerned your dog may have the flu?