Every year, many humans rush to get their flu shot in hopes of staying clear of the crippling virus. If you’ve ever had it, you can probably still remember the horrible body aches, fever, coughing, and overall feeling of yuck! Well, did you know our canine kids can be attacked by a similar virus? Read on to find out the causes and symptoms of dog flu. Plus, scroll down to the bottom for a quick overview of the recent 2017 outbreak.
A Quick Overview Of Dog Flu & The Symptoms
The canine influenza virus—more commonly referred to as the dog flu—is a highly contagious virus that causes a respiratory infection in dogs. Symptoms include coughing, sneezing, nasal discharge, lethargy, and loss of appetite. Dogs with severe cases can also develop a high fever and clinical signs of pneumonia.
While most dogs recover in about 2-3 weeks, the dog flu can be deadly—young, senior, and immunosuppressed dogs are at the highest risk. Fatality rates are less than 10%, according to the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory.
In the United States, the canine influenza virus has been caused by two strains—H3N8 and H3N2.
H3N8 – This was the first strain reported in the United States in 2004. Reports show this strain is closely related to the virus that causes equine influenza.
H3N2 – Word of this strain spread in 2015 when an outbreak of dog flu started in Chicago. Experts say this strain was almost genetically identical to a strain previously reported in Korea, China, and Thailand.
How It Spreads
The dog flu is very contagious. In fact, veterinarians say if a dog comes into contact with the dog flu they will likely catch it. This virus is spread by direct contact with a sick dog, a human carrier, or a contaminated environment.
Environmental factors can include kennel surfaces, food bowls, water bowls, toys, beds, and crates. If an infected dog rides in a car or comes in contact with your clothing, they too can become infected. Experts say the virus is easily killed, though, by most disinfectants. So if you suspect your dog is sick wash everything—from your dog’s belongings to your own!
Can Humans Catch Dog Flu?
According to the Center For Disease Control and Prevention:
“To date, there is no evidence of transmission of canine influenza viruses from dogs to people and there has not been a single reported case of human infection with a canine influenza virus. However, influenza viruses are constantly changing and it is possible for a virus to change so that it could infect humans and spread easily between humans.”
While canine to human transmission poses little to no threat at this time, the CDC and its partners continue to monitor it.
Although there is no cure for the dog flu, your vet will give supportive care. Just like when a human gets the flu, your pooch will need lots of rest and fluids. If he gets a secondary bacterial infection, the vet will likely give him an antibiotic. If you suspect your pooch has dog flu, don’t self-diagnose him. It’s very important that you see your vet for a medical exam to confirm the diagnosis and rule out other serious illnesses such as kennel cough, pneumonia, heart disease, etc., which can present with similar symptoms.
What Dog Parents Need To Know About The Latest 2017 Outbreak
This latest outbreak is caused by the H3N2 strain and is making its way across the country with reports in North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Texas, and Illinois. *At the time this article was published.
There is a vaccine that can protect your pooch against the dog flu. Talk to your vet to see if their office carries it and if your dog would be a good candidate.
If you notice your dog coughing (or showing any of the symptoms mentioned above), take him to the vet immediately to get tested for H3N2.