It's almost that time of year again when we all cozy up with our family and furry friends for the long Northwest winter. The almanac promises another snowy winter, but there's something else we can always count on as the weather gets colder and we spend more time indoors: flu season. We humans only deal with influenza in the cold months, but the dog flu is an issue year-round. Did you know that flu affects our canine companions and is a growing concern? Here's what you need to know to protect your dog from dog flu.
In 2004, the first recognized strain of the dog flu—canine influenza—reared its ugly head at a Florida greyhound race track, and it's been spreading, mutating, and growing ever since throughout the United States. There are two common strains that might affect your dog, H3N8, and H3N2. Dog flu isn't something to sneeze at: for young puppies or elderly and frail dogs, the respiratory infection associated with influenza can be difficult to overcome and even fatal.
Who Should Worry About Dog Flu?
All dog owners should be aware and prepared to prevent the spread of canine influenza. Vaccination is available, and every dog should receive it, mainly if they spend time around other dogs frequently. Dog flu is often shared in close quarters such as kennels and doggy daycares.
Symptoms of Canine Influenza
Canine influenza starts effecting dogs 2-3 days after exposure to the virus and usually begins with a persistent cough. Your dog will likely start showing the classic signs of not feeling well: lethargy, decreased appetite, and general malaise. Next, you'll notice "cold" symptoms: increased discharge from the eyes and nose, sneezing, increased coughing, and fever.
If your dog starts to exhibit these symptoms, it's important to diagnose the underlying cause. Many respiratory infections cause similar symptoms to canine influenza, but a test can indicate what the exact illness is. Dogs who have canine influenza are contagious for around 21 days, so quarantine is vital.
Dogs with weaker immune systems—such as young puppies and elderly dogs—may exhibit more severe symptoms with the flu. Watch out for a high-grade fever, wheezing, labor breathing, and increased respiratory rate.
If you believe your dog has canine influenza, bring him or her to your vet for an exam. Your vet can administer treatment including fluids, fever reduction medications, and antibiotics as needed.
It's vital that dogs receive the canine influenza vaccinations, particularly if they'll be going to the groomers or boarding at a day care facility. It's also crucial that you ensure every center you utilize for your dog's care requires vaccinations for all dog visitors. Daycares and groomers must follow proper sanitation and insist on appropriate vaccinations for all dogs to prevent outbreaks and illnesses.
Vaccinated dogs can still get canine influenza, but they're less likely to become infected and much less likely to spread the disease. Vaccination helps control the spread of dog flu and keeps it from becoming more of a problem across the nation. Vaccination helps reduce the severity and duration of canine influenza, meaning that a dog won't shed the virus as long and—hopefully—cause fewer subsequent infections.
We here at Intermountain Pet Hospital believe that vaccination is an important part of being a responsible pet owner. For more information about canine influenza, vaccinations, and how you can prevent illness in your pet, contact us today.