The flu affects millions of people every year; people rush to get flu shots every winter, and many become gravely ill from influenza infection. What a lot of people don’t know is that our pets can get the flu as well. We don’t usually think of our dogs getting the flu or coming down with a cold, but it is much more common than you might think. The canine influenza virus known as H3N8, was discovered in 2004 and has been found in cases throughout the U.S. This virus is commonly referred to as dog flu, however, this term is not favored by experts in the field as it creates confusion and leads people to falsely associate it with viruses affecting humans such as the bird flu and swine flu. It is important to note that this is specifically a virus impacting canines and is not transferable to humans. While H3N8 is not a direct threat to people, it is of specific concern to dog owners. Here’s what you need to know if you’re a dog owner.
Symptoms to look for
Symptoms of dog flu are much the same as those found in human influenza. The nature of the virus is to attack the respiratory system causing coughs and mild respiratory distress. Dr. Cynda Crawford explains in the New York Times that Canine influenza is one of several viruses commonly linked to canine infectious respiratory disease A.K.A Kennel cough. Dr Crawford also points out that dog flu is different from the virus affecting humans in that it is a year-round virus and not a seasonal affliction. As this is a respiratory virus, the most common symptom of canine influenza is a cough lasting 10-21 days. Additionally, nasal discharge and fever may be present as signs of infection.
Causes / Prevention
The virus is highly contagious and spreads to dogs the same way flu is transmitted from human to human. When we cough, sneeze, etc, we spread germs and infection to others who come into contact with us. it’s the same way with our pets. The best way to prevent the virus from harming your pet is to keep them away from other animals that could spread disease. This is not easy, however, because anytime we take a trip to the park, or go to the vet, our pets are exposed to germs and potential viruses. If you’re serious about preventing the flu in your dog, there is another option. In 2009 a vaccine was approved for canine influenza that may limit the effects of the virus and offer some protection for your dog. The flu shot for dogs does not guarantee that a dog will not contract the canine flu virus, but it acts to build a resistance that will at the least limit the impact and severity of the disease. Flu shots are available at veterinary clinics across the U.S, and your vet can advise you on the best course of action for treatment and prevention.
Be sure to consult your vet for the best health of your pets.