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Dogs Can Get the Flu Too! Signs and Symptoms of Canine Influenza!
Did you know that dogs can get the flu? Well, they can! Canine influenza is a newly emerging infectious disease caused by an actual "flu" virus. The flu that affects dogs is known as H3N8 and it is highly contagious! H3N8 can make your dog very sick and can cause serious respiratory illness. Other strains of the flu virus are responsible for causing infections in birds, horses, pigs and yes, people. The good news is that this virus only affects dogs and cannot be transmitted to humans or other animals.
The first case of canine influenza was reported in Florida in March of 2003. Since then, over twenty five other states have documented cases of dogs becoming ill with the flu. Unfortunately, the doggie flu virus is very contagious. In fact, unless a dog has already had the virus (and has fully recovered) or has been vaccinated, just about every dog exposed to the virus will eventually become infected. Why? Well, canine influenza is a fairly new virus; therefore, most dogs have not developed a natural immunity to it. While just about all dogs are susceptible to this nasty flu bug, only 80% will actually show signs of illness or infection. The other 20% will show NO signs and will unfortunately, spread the virus to other canines.
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Signs and Symptoms of Canine Influenza
So how will you know if your dog has the flu? That is a great question! The most common sign of canine influenza is a persistent cough that unfortunately, can last for up to one month. That's a long time to have a cough! Some dogs have a moist, "productive" cough while others will suffer from a dry cough. Veterinarians often confuse canine influenza with kennel cough, however, as more is discovered about canine influenza the easier it will be for vets to properly diagnose. Other signs that your dog may be sick with the flu include: a low-grade fever, nasal discharge, lack of energy and loss of appetite.
How Serious is Canine Influenza and How is it Diagnosed?
Most dogs that get the flu are only mildly affected while others get very sick. Obviously, older dogs or dogs that have compromised immune systems have a more difficult time when it comes to getting over the flu. About 20% of dogs that catch the flu (H3N8) will develop a serious case (with severe symptoms). High fever and pneumonia are two such symptoms. Only a small number of dogs have died from complications associated with this virus.
As previously mentioned, diagnosing canine influenza can be quite difficult as the symptoms are similar to other doggie problems such as kennel cough. Many times, canine influenza is not properly diagnosed until more serious symptoms set in. Even lab tests such as nasal swabs and blood work do not always properly diagnose dogs with H3N8). If your dog becomes ill and you know that he or she has been exposed to the virus, take him to the animal hospital as soon as possible.
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What Dogs are at Risk?
All dogs are at risk when it comes to canine influenza as this virus does not discriminate! However, certain activities can raise your dog's risk of actually catching the flu. If you answer "Yes" to one or more of the questions below, then your dog is at risk and you may want to speak to your dog's veterinarian to find out how you can protect your furry friend.
Does Your Dog:
Enter dog shows or agility events?
Board at a kennel or attend doggie daycare?
Attend a dog training class with other dogs?
Visit a doggie grooming salon?
Go to the dog park?
Visit with other dogs on daily walks?
Come into contact with other dogs while waiting to see the vet?
Again, if you answered "Yes" to any of the above questions, talk to your dog's veterinarian! As I always say, when it comes to your dog's health, it is better to be safe than sorry!
How is the Dog Flu Spread?
So how exactly does a dog get the canine flu? Well, interestingly enough, dogs catch the flu the same way that humans do! Dogs can catch the flu through direct contact with other dogs that are infected. For example, if your dog nuzzles or licks another dog that is infected…then most likely, he or she will get the flu. Unfortunately, the dog flu is also transmitted through the air. So if your dog is sick and sneezes on or around another dog…well, you get the picture!
Dogs can also pick up the flu bug by playing with a toy that an infected dog has played with. If you take your dog to the dog park and he happens to catch a tennis ball that a contaminated dog has played with…he or she will most likely get sick.
Again, dogs can get the canine flu via:
Breathing in the Virus via the Air (Sneeze or Cough)
By Chewing on or Playing with Contaminated Items (Toys, etc)
So Your Dog has the Flu! Oh What to Do!
Currently, there is no specific treatment prescribed for dogs that have canine influenza. As with most, if not all, viral illnesses, you must be patient and allow the illness to run its course. Of course you can help your dog along the way by providing nutritious food and plenty of fluids. It is also important that you allow your sick dog to rest and of course, a little extra love goes a long way as well. If your dog becomes really sick, take him to the vet as soon as possible as sometimes canine influenza infections can become complicated by secondary infections. If your dog catches the flu, you can expect him to cough…a lot! NEVER and I repeat, NEVER give your dog over the counter or prescribed HUMAN FLU MEDICATIONS! Human flu medications have not been approved for dogs and you could actually cause more harm than good by medicating your dog with a product meant for human consumption.
Protect Your Furry Friend!
So what can you do to protect your pooch? First of all, keep your pup in good health at all times. Healthy dogs are able to fight off illness and heal faster than unhealthy dogs. Well rested, well fed, and well exercised dogs have stronger immune systems then their couch potato counter-parts. If you must drop your dog off at dog daycare or a dog training class…make sure the facility is clean and well kept. It wouldn't hurt to ask the staff if they have a canine influenza outbreak management plan. A good facility will!
Thankfully, there is a canine influenza vaccine available. It is the FIRST of its kind and was tested and proven SAFE in over 700 dogs of various breeds. Together Intervet along with Schering-Plough Animal Health developed the vaccine…which by the way is officially known as Canine Influenza Vaccine #H3N8 (the next time you take your dog to the vet you can impress the staff by asking for it by name). This vaccine has been clinically proven to shorten the amount of time it takes for your pooch to get over the virus. It takes two doses of the vaccine in order for it to work. Therefore, after the first injection, your dog will need to return to the vet within two to four weeks in order to receive the follow-up injection. After the second injection, your dog will not need to be re-vaccinated for one year. Most veterinarians' offices that also provide kenneling services will require that your dog be vaccinated. If you have questions or concerns about the H3N8 vaccination, be sure to talk to the vet and ask a LOT of questions! Knowledge is power, the more you know about your dog's health care, the better!
So there you have it, a quick over-view of the dreaded canine influenza virus. When it comes to your dog's health, be PRO-ACTIVE! Dogs that are fed nutritious dog treats such as carrots and apples slices instead of fattening, store bought dog treats often develop stronger immune systems and are able to fight off infections! Also, be smart about where you take your dog and with whom he or she interacts! Remember…the doggie flu is VERY contagious! Finally, don't be afraid to talk to your pup's veterinarian. Good vets will take time to answer your questions as they care about your dog's health just as much as you do!
If you have a few moments to spare, please read some of my other dog related HUB Pages. Thanks and here's to your dog's health! Woof!