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Dog Flu

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Dominik QN
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When your dog really doesn't feel good, you can tell by its body language!

Canine influenza (or Dog Flu) is spreading across the country, including right here in Alabama.  It can seem mild at first, maybe a slight cough or sneezing – but one in five dogs who catch the virus will develop serious symptoms, including pneumonia and high fever.  Dog flu is highly contagious – an animal infected with the virus could cough and infect a dog twenty feet away.

     Dog flu is 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 twelve hours on your hands, clothes or shoes.

So how can you protect your pet from dog flu?  One way would be to have your dog vaccinated.  There are two strains currently spreading in our state, and there are vaccines for both.  You might want to ask your vet for the bivalent vaccine which offers protection against both.  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.  There is no vaccine currently available for cats, so if possible keep your feline friend away from your dog.

     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.

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Mindy Norton has been “Speaking of Pets” on Alabama Public Radio since 1995.