Things you may need to know – if you suspect ‘Dog Flu’

Most dog owners have heard of the canine influenza virus, but here are a few quick facts about the dog flu that are helpful for every dog parent to know.

1. What is the dog flu?

The “dog flu” comes as a result of being infected by the canine influenza virus, a contagious respiratory disease that was originally referred to as equine influenza virus. This virus was only identified in horses until recently.

2. How long has it existed?

The dog flu has only been reported since 2004. The 40 years prior it was prevalent during flu season in horses and mysteriously jumped from horses to several breeds of racing dogs at a Florida racetrack in 2004. It was then named “canine influenza,” and because of the contagiousness of the disease, it spread quickly to almost 40 states. The disease is now considered a dog-specific lineage (H3N8 – dog flu).

3. What are the signs/symptoms?

The common symptoms of the dog flu may include runny nose, coughing and fever. However, less common symptoms may also be seen, such as lethargy, respiratory infections and loss of appetite.

4. How do dogs contract it?

Much like the flu in humans, canine influenza can spread by contaminated objects and/or airborne germs. If your dog is exhibiting signs of dog flu, don’t share his toys and keep him away from other dogs until those symptoms have subsided. The virus can also pass through you, so be sure to wash your hands thoroughly if you must handle other pets.

5. Can the Canine Influenza be fatal?

It is very rare that a dog dies of canine influenza. However, if left untreated, the dog flu can worsen and even turn into pneumonia. So be sure to take good care of your dog if he is exhibiting these symptoms. Most cases of dog flu are mild and pass quickly when given the attention and care needed.

6. How do you know if your dog has the flu?

tired dog with dog flu

If you see your dog exhibiting the symptoms listed above for more than a 2 day period, you should take him to the vet for testing. There are two types of tests that a veterinarian will commonly run to detect canine influenza.

7. How do you treat the dog flu?

Just like the flu in humans, treatment for dog flu consists mainly of supportive care and hydration. Keeping fluids in your dog is essential and using natural supplements to support the immune response is highly recommended. Sometimes your vet will prescribe antibiotics if they suspect a secondary bacterial infection. If this is the case, be sure to give your dog probiotics during this period, so as to still keep that good bacteria alive in the gut – which will also help with the healing process.

8. Should I vaccinate for it?

Do your research on this. If your dog is not at high risk, most vets will not administer a vaccination for canine influenza… as they shouldn’t. Since the majority of cases are mild and do not last long, many dog owners would prefer to treat the disease if it comes rather than risk a reaction to the vaccine. Remember that your dog is YOUR dog… you are the one who decides what is best for your best friend.

9. Can I catch the flu from my dog?

There is no evidence of canine influenza traveling to the human population – however, 30 years ago there was no evidence of the equine influenza spreading to dogs either. New strains of the flu virus are found each year, but for now there is no reason to believe you will need to take a sick day. It will likely be a while before “I caught the flu from my dog” catches up with “my dog ate my homework”.

10. How can I prevent my dog from getting the flu?

Obviously, keeping your dog away from other infected dogs will help to prevent the dog flu. It is reported that 80% of dogs that are infected will contract at least a mild form of the disease. Keep your dog in optimum health by feeding a premium diet, giving daily supplements and vitamins and maintaining a regular exercise routine. Prevention is the best medicine around. It’s our job as dog owners to provide the nutrition and environment necessary for a strong immune system. If we do our jobs well, we can help tip the scales that can keep our dogs from dealing with the discomfort of the dog flu altogether.

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