Canine influenza - or dog flu - is a highly contagious virus transmitted to a healthy dog from an infected animal that is coughing or sneezing, or by contact with contaminated bowls, leashes, bedding, even toys used by an infected pet.
Again this year, influenza (or “the flu”) is a major health issue for us humans, especially in certain parts of the country. Did you know your dog can catch the flu? It’s true, although your pet is not susceptible to the same virus that affects humans.
Dog flu was first discovered in 2004 among greyhounds at a Florida racetrack, and is believed to be a mutated strain of equine influenza. In recent years, dog flu has affected thousands of animals. And statistics show that one in every one hundred dogs that get the flu could die from it.
One problem is that pretty much any dog exposed to the virus will become infected because they’ve had no previous exposure and so have no natural immunity. If your pet shows any of the symptoms – coughing, runny nose, fever – the veterinarian can run a test to determine if it’s really dog flu.
Since the flu is caused by a virus, antibiotics are ineffective, unless your canine friend develops a secondary bacterial infection. The vet may prescribe other medication to help your pet rest which, along with plenty of fluids and lots of T-L-C from you, will speed recovery.
So how can you protect your pet from the dog flu? One way would be to have your dog vaccinated. The vaccine is not guaranteed to keep your pet from catching dog flu. But it may lessen the symptoms, reduce the severity and shorten the duration, all of which can improve your pet’s chances of surviving a bout of canine influenza without serious damage to its lungs.
If your dog is primarily an inside pet that doesn’t come into contact with other dogs, there is less risk. But even a trip to the park or the pet store or the groomer or the veterinarian’s clinic could put your best friend at risk.
Talk to your vet about the possibility of having your dog vaccinated against canine flu. And if your dog starts coughing and sneezing, call your vet. Early detection and treatment will give your best friend its best chance for a full recovery, which makes for a healthy dog and a happy owner, when you’re speaking of pets.