The first strain of canine influenza, or dog flu, in the U.S. was reported in 2004. The virus, known as H3N8 influenza A, is closely related to a type of horse flu. Experts believe that the equine influenza virus mutated to produce the canine strain. A separate strain, H3N2, believed to have come from an avian influenza virus in Asia, broke out in Chicago in 2015.
An outbreak of H3N2, the one that originated in birds, broke out once more in May 2017, with cases reported in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, Louisiana and Illinois.
There is no evidence that the virus can be transmitted from canines to humans, however it can easily spread from one dog to another. Fortunately, fewer than 10 percent of dogs that contract the flu die from the illness.
Learning how it is transmitted, what symptoms to watch for and how to treat a dog with the flu can help pet owners protect their precious pooches.
How Do Dogs Get the Flu?
Infected dogs can spread the virus through coughing, sneezing and barking. The risk of transmission increases when multiple dogs are in close quarters, such as at a grooming or boarding facility, doggy daycare or animal shelter.
Canine influenza can also spread indirectly. Objects that infected dogs have been in contact with, such as water and food bowls, kennels or even people can expose other dogs to the flu. The virus can live up to 12 hours on hands, 24 hours on clothing and 48 hours on surfaces.
What Are the Symptoms of Canine Influenza?
While some infected dogs become severely ill, other dogs show no signs of the sickness at all. The most common mild symptoms include a persistent, moist cough or a dry cough similar to kennel cough; runny eyes; sneezing; lethargy; fever; reduced appetite; and thick nasal mucus discharge. The presence of nasal mucus may indicate a secondary infection.
Dogs presenting the typical flu symptoms along with a high fever (104 to 106 degrees, whereas a typical temperature range for dogs is 101 to 102.5 degrees) as well as respiratory issues, such as labored breathing, may have developed pneumonia.
What Should You Do If Your Dog Catches the Flu?
If your dog has symptoms of canine flu, it is important to separate your pet from other animals. A veterinarian can test your dog to determine whether it is sick with the flu or another type of infection. Make sure you contact the vet with your concerns before taking your dog to the office, as your pet may be highly contagious.
Most dogs will recover within two to four weeks with minimal extra care, although they must be kept away from other dogs for at least a month. Pets with other health issues, such as a pre-existing respiratory disease or compromised immune system, may require medications or other advanced treatment. Dogs who develop pneumonia may require hospitalization.
How Can You Prevent Your Dog from Getting Sick?
Isolating sick dogs is the primary way to prevent this virus from spreading. Good hygiene and sanitation go a long way, as well. For instance, wash your hands after playing with, feeding and cleaning up after your dog and clean shared pet items thoroughly after every use.
In addition, you can vaccinate your pet. Vaccines for both H3N8 and H3N2 strains of canine influenza virus are available, although most vets only recommend them for dogs that have a high exposure to other dogs.
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Who Else Is At Risk?
There has been no evidence that dog flu is contagious to humans. There have been instances of dog-to-cat and cat-to-cat transmission of the H3N2 canine influenza virus, so any dog that presents symptoms of the flu should be kept away from other animals in the household as well.
Dogs And Lyme Disease
Lyme disease is another doggie illness to look out for this summer.
Dogs, like humans, can contract Lyme disease from deer ticks. Scientists predicted that summer 2017 would be a particularly bad year for deer ticks—meaning you should be extra vigilant about checking your dog’s skin after spending time outdoors, particularly if you live an area where Lyme is prevalent and have spent time in long grass or wooded areas.
There are topical insecticides that help to keep ticks at bay as well as vaccines that may help to prevent Lyme disease in dogs, so be sure to talk to vet about these options (some vets feel that the vaccines are ineffective). The most common Lyme disease symptoms in dogs are fever and lameness, but they generally don’t show up until a couple months after being infected and can be treated with antibiotics.
[h/t: WXII 12 News]