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Canine Influenza: What To Do When Your Dog Gets The Flu

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With flu season winding down, and spring settling in, most of us are probably breathing a sigh of relief; either we didn’t come down with the flu this year or we have recovered and don’t have to worry about it again until next winter.

Unfortunately, this is not so for our canine companions. Canine influenza, also known as dog flu, is back again this year and already spreading, regardless of the season. Learning the ins and outs of canine influenza is essential in protecting your dog, and others, against this potentially dangerous infection.

Canine Influenza

Canine influenza was first reported in the United States in 2004. That particular strain of the virus, known as H2N8, was first reported in a group of racing greyhounds in Florida. It was determined that the virus had jumped from horses to dogs, where it found a permanent home as a canine-specific virus.

Fast-forward to the spring of 2015, when a new outbreak was discovered in  Chicagoland area dogs, and has since spread throughout the country. Although the symptoms experienced by infected dogs were similar to the H2N8 strain, the 2015 virus has been identified as H3N2 and is thought to be related to avian influenza.

Symptoms Of Canine Influenza

Dogs with the flu experience many of the same symptoms as people, such as:

  • Cough (may be moist or dry sounding)
  • Decreased energy
  • Sneezing
  • Discharge from the nose
  • Reduced appetite

A small percentage of dogs will develop a fever (104°F to 106°F) and pneumonia due to a secondary bacterial infection.

Treatment And Recovery

Bring your dog in to see us as soon as you suspect he or she may be sick. Severely dehydrated dogs will need fluid therapy, and any secondary bacterial infections will be treated with antibiotics. Additionally, your veterinarian may prescribe a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory to reduce fever, swelling, or pain.

Help your dog recover at home by ensuring that he or she has plenty of water, rest, and good nutrition.

Prevention

Canine influenza is extremely contagious, and because U.S. dogs have not been exposed to the H3N2 virus before, almost all lack immunity. Nearly 100% of dogs exposed to the active virus will become infected, with roughly 80% showing clinical symptoms.

Do your part to reduce transmission of canine influenza by:

  • Inquire about a facility’s infection control procedures before bringing your dog to a kennel, daycare, groomer, or dog show.
  • If your dog contracts canine influenza, keep him or her away from other dogs for the duration of the illness.
  • Consider having your healthy dog vaccinated against the H3N2 virus (a vaccine recently became available under conditional approval by the USDA).
  • Support your dog’s immune system with proper nutrition, regular exercise, and by making sure he or she is current on all vaccinations.

If your pet comes down with the flu, don’t panic! With proper veterinary and home care, most dogs recover from canine influenza successfully.  

If you have any questions or concerns about the canine influenza virus, please give us a call.

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Westlake Animal Hospital

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3930 Bee Cave Rd. Austin, TX 78746

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