Canine influenza, or dog flu, is a contagious strain of the flu virus called influenza A H3N8. It is not a disease of humans and originally was an equine disease that mutated and became dog pathogen as reported in 2004 according to the Centers for Disease Control. Here is a relevant guide for dog owners about dog flu and what facts are important to know when your dog is having respiratory symptoms.
Unlike human flu symptoms that peak in cold weather months, dog flu happens year round and can strike at any time. So far, cases have been reported in about thirty states since the disease was discovered five years ago, according to a report in the New York Times earlier this year.
Transmission of the disease is similar to humans in that direct contact between and infected dog and non-infected dog can spread the virus. Coughing and sneezing dogs can also spread the virus by making it airborne around healthy dogs. Because the flu is new to dogs, many dogs don’t have an immunity yet and catch the illness readily.
Just as in humans, respiratory illness is the main symptom that appears in dogs who have canine influenza. Coughing, sneezing, and runny noses are also major symptoms of dog flu. Right now, statistics are about eighty percent of dogs who come in contact with the virus show symptoms while twenty percent do not, so the disease is very contagious according to Dr. Cynda Crawford of the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine.
She spoke to the same New York Times article that most dogs recover in about two weeks and deaths are extremely rare. Some dogs do develop pneumonia as a secondary infection.
There isn’t much treatment for canine influenza except to make your dog comfortable. Always consult with your veterinarian about what secondary treatment your vet may recommend such as antibiotics to prevent a secondary infection of bacteria.
Give your dog plenty of clean water and make sure your dog eats properly so they can fight the infection on their own and let it run its course. Your dog should be fine after a few weeks.
So far, a vaccine has been developed but is not available at veterinary offices just yet. Called the C.I.V. or canine influenza virus, clinical trials look promising. Consult with your vet about whether the vaccine may be right for your dog when it becomes available.
This article is intended for informational purposes only. If you feel your dog needs medical treatment for any respiratory illness, seek the consultation of your veterinarian.