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  • Vickie Foster

What You Need To Know About Canine Influenza

Dog flu, also known as Canine Influenza, is a contagious respiratory disease in dogs. It is caused by a virus similar to the one that causes the flu in humans. There is no evidence of canine influenza viruses being spread from dogs to people. Additionally, there has not been a single reported case of human infection with a canine influenza virus in the U.S. or worldwide.


How does it spread?

The canine influenza virus is airborne and almost all dogs are susceptible to canine flu infection. Dogs can catch it from being around other infected dogs who are coughing, barking, or sneezing. That means crowded places with lots of dogs like dog parks, pet boarding, and pet daycare can expose them to the virus. Additionally, dogs can contract it from contaminated surfaces like water bowls, food bowls, or kennel surfaces. A person who has been in contact with an infected dog can also spread it.


Dog owners whose dogs are coughing or showing other signs of respiratory disease such as coughing, difficulty breathing, gagging after coughing, nasal congestion, exercise intolerance, fainting, or wheezing should not expose their dog to other dogs or to cats.


How serious is it?

According to the CDC, the percentage of dogs infected with canine influenza that die is very small. Most cases of canine influenza are not fatal unless it is contracted by a dog with a serious concurrent illness. Some dogs have asymptomatic infections, while some have a severe illness with infection. In severe cases, canine influenza is followed by the onset of pneumonia.


What are the symptoms?

Dog Flu cases can be mild to severe. Unlike human infections, it is not seasonal. If there is an outbreak near you look for the following symptoms:

  • Coughing (both moist and dry)

  • Sneezing

  • Nasal discharge

  • Runny eyes

  • Fever (signs of fever include: red eyes, warm ears, warm dry nose, shivering, loss of appetite and vomiting)

  • Lethargy

  • Difficulty breathing

How long are dogs contagious?

Dogs are most contagious during the incubation period before they show symptoms. That time period is 2 to 4 days from when they are exposed. Almost all dogs that are exposed to the virus will contract it. A small number of about 25% will not show symptoms, but unfortunately they can still spread the virus. Veterinarians recommend quarantining an exposed dog for 21 days.


What to do if your dog shows symptoms?

If you suspect your dog has canine influenza they should be seen by a vet. Let your veterinarian know that you suspect them of having canine influenza.


Your vet will be able to administer supportive care to keep your dog comfortable. This may include giving fluids and medication to reduce fever. Additionally, your vet may recommend a nutritional plan and an antibiotic to help with secondary bacterial infections. Your vet can also recommend quarantine procedures to stop the influenza spread along with giving you information on how to disinfect your home to kill the virus.


Prevention

The best way to prevent canine influenza is to keep your dog away from places like dog parks, pet boarding, and pet daycare where there is an outbreak. If you think that you have been exposed to it, wash your hands, arms, and clothing before touching your dog.


If you have a lifestyle that includes you and your dog being around lots of other dogs, such as being a dog trainer, working in a dog facility, or if you are in an area of a flu outbreak, your vet can administer a vaccine to your dog.


Final words

Make sure to keep a close eye on your dog if you know of any outbreaks in your county. If you take your dog to the dog park, dog boarding, dog daycare, or dog grooming you may want to contact your vet about getting a canine influenza vaccine. Being aware of any outbreaks in your area and monitoring your dog will help keep your dog safe!


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