With the flu season being especially difficult for humans this year, concern is growing about the threat of dog flu. Yes, dogs have their own strain of flu, not contagious to humans but very easily spread to other dogs and even to cats. The advice is the same for your dog as it is for you - get the flu shot.
In every state except Hawaii, deadly influenza has affected adults and children. But people are not the only ones who are catching the flu. Two different strains of dog flu are popping up in a number of states this year.
Canine Influenza Virus, or Dog Flu, has been around for more than a decade. It’s not the same virus that affects humans, so you can’t catch the flu from your pet, and your dog won’t catch it from you. However you can unintentionally pass it to your pet if you come into contact with an infected animal, because the virus can live for more than 12 hours on your hands, clothes or shoes.
If your pet shows any of the symptoms – coughing, runny nose, fever – the veterinarian can run a test to determine if it’s really dog flu. Since the flu is caused by a virus, antibiotics are ineffective, unless your canine friend develops a secondary bacterial infection. The vet may prescribe other medication to help your pet rest; that, along with plenty of fluids and lots of T-L-C from you, will speed recovery (which could take several weeks).
So how can you protect your pet from the dog flu? One way would be to have your dog vaccinated. The vaccine is not guaranteed to keep your pet from catching dog flu. But it may lessen the symptoms, reduce the severity and shorten the duration, all of which can improve your pet’s chances of surviving a bout of canine influenza without serious damage to its lungs.
If your dog is primarily an inside pet that doesn’t come into contact with other dogs, there is less risk. But even a trip to the park or the pet store or the groomer or the veterinarian’s clinic could put your best friend at risk. And while the virus won’t make you sick, dog flu could also affect your cat. Canine influenza, like the human version, is prolific and spreads easily.
If your dog starts coughing or sneezing, call your vet. Early detection and treatment will give your best friend its best chance for a complete recovery, which makes for a healthy animal and a happy owner, when you’re speaking of pets.