The canine influenza virus is on the rise. The simpler term for this illness is one with which you might be familiar: dog flu. You didn’t know that your dog could get the flu? No one did before 2004. That’s when the condition was first discovered. However, a different strain affected horses before that.
Before I talk more about the dog flu, let me introduce myself. I’m the Irreverent Vet. I’m not afraid to tell you what I really think about controversial issues related to pet and dog care. I often have strong opinions. Even if my views are unpopular, they’re always based on science. I think it’s important to let you know the facts so that you can make the best decisions for your family and your furry loved ones.
In this article, I’m going to talk about the dog flu. In 2015, a new strain of this virus was discovered, according to Time. The highly contagious respiratory disease affected hundreds of dogs in the Chicago area. It’s making its way around the U.S. again. At the beginning of the summer of 2017, the dog flu hit Florida and California. Since 2015, cases have been confirmed in more than 30 states. Should you be worried?
Most dogs don’t die from the flu, although six of the dogs in the Illinois outbreak unfortunately did. If the illness becomes severe, your dog could be hospitalized for complications. Old and very young dogs are at the greatest risk. Even if your dog lives through it, this disease can cost you thousands in medical bills and tug at your heartstrings. I don’t know a pet owner who wouldn’t be devastated to see their dog so sick. Find out the symptoms and what you can do to prevent this disease.
Dog Flu Symptoms
How do you know if your dog has the flu? The symptoms are similar to those of human respiratory viruses. Your dog may cough, have a runny nose, or spike a fever. It may be too tired to move and refuse to eat. Of course, if you noticed these symptoms, you would bring your dog straight to the vet. It’s unusual to hear a dog cough or sniffle. The most serious side effect of this illness is pneumonia. About 20 percent of dogs with the flu don’t show any symptoms, though. Still, your infected dog could pass the disease to another animal.
How Does Dog Flu Spread?
Dogs can’t wash their hands. Plus, they’re pretty slobbery, and they’re not careful about putting things in their mouths. Canine influenza spreads through saliva and mucus. If an infected dog coughs or sneezes on your dog, it’s over. Well, it may have just begun. Doctors think that just about every dog that is exposed to the virus does contract it. Like I said before, one in five dogs may not have any symptoms.
Although there have been no documented cases of this flu in humans, people can spread the disease to their dog. Let’s say you work with animals. You’re unaware that Spot has H3N2, the newer strain of the influenza. Spot licks you, sneezes on you, and gets his germy saliva all over your skin and clothes. The microbes only live about two minutes on your skin, and you wash your hands so well that you’re going to remove all traces from them. The virus can live for a day or longer on your clothes, though. You go home to your own little Fluffy, he licks your shirt, and he gets sick.
It’s highly unlikely that your dog will come down with influenza if he stays home all day and isn’t exposed to other animals. Dogs can pass it to cats, though, and your pet could come in contact with it while he’s saying hello to the neighbor’s dog on your morning walk. Your pet is much more prone to coming in contact with the germs if he hangs out in tight quarters with lots of other dogs. The June 2017 Florida outbreak is thought to have started at a dog show. Your dog could catch it at the groomer’s, daycare, animal shelter, boarding kennel, or dog park.
How to Protect Your Pet
What is scary about any virus is that it can mutate. The bug went through five mutations from the time that it only affected horses until it began to affect dogs. It’s already contagious to cats. However, there’s no vaccination for felines.