What is canine flu?
Dog flu, or canine flu, is an influenza A virus that has adapted to dogs. There are two subtypes, H3N8 and H3N2, which have been the predominant strain in the United States since 2015. As in humans, the virus causes respiratory illness in dogs and, in rare cases, death, “although most healthy dogs will recover with supportive care,” said Deborah Silverstein, a professor of critical care at the University of Pennsylvania College of Veterinary Medicine. She explained that some dogs that get the flu will also develop other bacterial or viral infections, known as “canine infectious respiratory disease complex.”
“This recently emerged in Oklahoma, Texas, and the Carolinas and caused an outbreak of the severe and fatal disease in dogs,” Silverstein wrote in an email. She added that because so many homeless dogs are brought to these states for adoption, “we must be vigilant in identifying these animals to prevent a widespread outbreak.”
How contagious is dog flu?
Canine influenza is highly contagious among dogs and can spread rapidly in settings where they are close to each other, such as dog parks, daycares, grooming facilities, shelters, animal shelters, and veterinary hospitals. Dogs can be contagious for up to three to four weeks, the vets said.
It is spread through respiratory droplets by direct nose-to-nose contact or by coughing or sneezing, which creates aerosol droplets that can linger in the air or land on surfaces where they can survive for hours, said Lori Teller, president of American Veterinary. Medical Association. Teller said an infected dog could, for example, spread the virus at a dog park, and then a dog arriving hours later could catch it.
“Dogs use their nose and mouth for everything,” she said. “This is how they greet each other and how they interact with people. Therefore, it is straightforward for their respiratory secretions to spread and the virus can live in the environment for up to 48 hours.
In addition, most dogs do not have pre-existing immunity to canine influenza, making them susceptible to the highly contagious virus, leading to outbreaks in these types of crowded settings, said Cynda Crawford, clinical associate professor of shelter medicine at the Veterinary school. Medicine at the University of Florida led the team that discovered the canine influenza virus in 2004.
Can dog flu be transmitted to humans or cats?
There is no evidence that the virus is contagious to humans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cats can get it, but it’s rare and cases are usually mild.
What are the symptoms of canine influenza?
Because canine flu shares symptoms with other respiratory illnesses, the only way to know for sure if your dog has it is to get tested at a veterinary clinic or hospital. Symptoms, which typically appear two to five days after exposure, include fever, cough, sneezing, runny nose, watery eyes, lethargy, and loss of appetite. Most dogs will recover within a couple of weeks, although the cough may last longer, the vets said.
Some dogs, particularly those that are very young or very old and those with compromised immune systems, are at higher risk of developing complications, including pneumonia. Those who develop more serious symptoms, such as high fever, shortness of breath, or coughing up blood, may need emergency medical attention. In such cases, contact your vet or animal hospital for guidance.
What can I do if I suspect my dog has it?
For most dogs, cases will be mild and only require TLC at home. If you have other dogs in the home, try to isolate the sick dog in a separate room and don’t allow that dog to share bowls, beds, or toys with others. Then just give your dog some time to rest and recover, the vets said. If your dog has tested positive, don’t take him to public places where there may be other dogs for three to four weeks, even if your dog no longer has symptoms, Crawford said.
If symptoms interfere with your dog’s ability to eat or sleep, or if your dog develops more worrisome symptoms, contact your vet. Do not show up at a veterinary clinic or animal hospital without calling first. To protect other dogs from possible exposure, the vet may want to examine your dog in your car or ask you to use a separate entrance that leads to an isolated area within the facility.
Is there a cure for dog flu?
Although there is no cure for canine flu, there are certain medications your vet can prescribe to make your dog more comfortable, such as pain relievers, cough suppressants and appetite stimulants, said Teller, an associate clinical professor at the School of Veterinary Medicine. from Texas A&M. Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. “But don’t use human medications, including over-the-counter medications, to treat your dog because some of them can be toxic to the point of being potentially fatal,” he said.
Is there a vaccine available for it?
There are actually three vaccines for dog flu: one to protect against H3N8, one to protect against H3N2 and a bivalent vaccine, which provides broader protection, said Crawford, who worked with a pharmaceutical company to create a vaccine. Although vaccinations do not necessarily prevent infection, they do lessen the severity of symptoms, shorten the duration of illness, reduce the amount of time dogs are contagious, and most importantly, protect against more severe complications such as pneumonia, said.
Vets who spoke to The Post recommend vaccinations, particularly for dogs that have contact with other dogs. “If your dog doesn’t participate in community events with other dogs and is basically a couch dog, stays home all the time, he may be at very low risk of exposure to the virus and therefore doesn’t need the vaccine,” Crawford said.
The two-dose vaccines are given two to four weeks apart and require annual boosters to maintain protective immunity, the veterinarians said. While the initial series of vaccinations takes four to six weeks to achieve maximum protection, veterinarians recommend starting the process now to give your dog at least some shelter before the holidays, especially if you plan to board your dog in a dog pound. And if your dog has been vaccinated in the past but is due for a booster, go ahead and get the shot, the vets said. “Hopefully, your dog will have some protection in the busiest part of the vacation,” Teller said.