Tis the season for flu shots for humans – but does your dog need a flu shot, too? The canine flu, also known as the dog flu or canine influenza, is a contagious respiratory infection. This illness was only recently discovered in 2004 when racing dogs contracted the virus from horses. Outbreaks are sporadic, and they have appeared in nearly all the states in the nation, but that doesn’t make them any less dangerous for your pet if he does develop the dog flu.
Here’s what you need to know about canine influenza so that you can keep your dog healthy:
How the dog flu is spread: Dogs do not have natural immunity to this virus and normal panting or sneezing can spread the disease, as well as contact with contaminated objects or people who have been in contact with infected dogs.
Symptoms of canine influenza: Dogs can experience symptoms like fever, cough, runny nose, lethargy, loss of appetite, and respiratory infection. If a cough lasts for more than two days and is accompanied by other symptoms, see your veterinarian immediately to find out if your dog does indeed have the flu and to get started on treatment.
Treatment for dog flu: In many cases, canine influenza is mild. In severe cases, the disease could develop into serious fevers or pneumonia and may require hospitalization. Treatment often includes antibiotics and fluids to promote hydration.
Preventing canine influenza: One of the biggest ways to protect your dog from the canine flu is by keeping your pet away from dogs that are infected or facilities that have experienced an outbreak of the virus. Certain vaccinations – the H3N8 immunization, in particular – can help protect your dog from certain strains of canine influenza. These are preventive shots, however, and are not a course of treatment once a dog is infected. Even vaccinated dogs should be kept away from dogs, people, or objects that have come into direct contact with the virus.
Your veterinarian will help you decide if vaccinating your dog against canine influenza is the right choice. Your dog’s lifestyle will certainly play a part in this decision-making process. If your dog is in frequent contact with other dogs – often spending time in a doggie day care or kennel – the vaccination can help prevent the virus from spreading. Seek out boarding facilities that require pets to be up to date on vaccinations before allowing them to stay there.
If you suspect that your dog may have canine influenza, or if you want more information about this vaccination for your pet, contact the Northpointe Veterinary Hospital, open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for fast and comprehensive care.