Facts About Dog Flu
Canine influenza, or “dog flu,” is making headlines again.
This respiratory disease is caused by a highly contagious influenza virus and warrants taking precautions with your pet. Since 2015, 51 cases have been reported in the state of Indiana. Surrounding states, like Illinois, are seeing even higher numbers recently, particularly in the Chicagoland area.
Two strains of this virus exist, H3N8 and H3N2, both of which have been found in Indiana and neighboring states. This highly contagious virus spreads through direct contact or airborne respiratory secretions from an infected animal and can affect both dogs and cats. Humans, however, are not at risk of contracting canine influenza. The majority of dogs that come into contact with the virus will develop mild symptoms.
Symptoms may include:
- a cough that lasts for 10-21 days despite treatment
- discharge from the eyes and nose
- decreased activity level
It is possible for pets to develop more serious complications such as pneumonia, which typically manifests as a higher grade fever and difficulty breathing. Canine influenza can resemble kennel cough so it is important to always have your pet checked out if you notice any of these signs.
To diagnose canine influenza, your veterinarian will first ensure clinical signs are similar to that of the disease. Your vet will then confirm that is is canine influenza by submitting a test to a lab that looks for the presence of the virus.
Most cases of “dog flu” will resolve on their own in 2-3 weeks, just like in humans. Viral infections typically are not treated with antibiotics unless a secondary bacterial infection is present. Treatment typically includes anti-inflammatories for fever and discomfort plus fluids to ensure your pet is well hydrated.
Traveling with your pet and significant contact with other dogs increases your pet’s risk of contracting the disease. It’s also important to remember that there is no “season” for dog flu like there often is for humans, so your pet could become infected at any time of the year.
Steps you can take to ensure your pet is protected:
- Canine bivalent influenza vaccine – this vaccine protects against both strains and can be administered by your veterinarian. It is highly recommended if you plan to travel with your pet or if your pet will be at daycare, grooming facilities (like Furr: Pet Spa and Wellness), or dog shows. Some facilities even require it prior to boarding or grooming. It is important to note, however, that not all dogs need this vaccine. Your veterinarian can help you determine whether your dog is at increased risk.
- Do not allow your pet to socialize with a dog that is diagnosed with the disease for approximately 4 weeks.
- If your dog does contract the virus, he or she should be kept out of areas where other dogs are permitted for 4 weeks.
If your pet is showing signs or symptoms of canine influenza, please contact your veterinarian.