This time of year we are focused on getting our own flu shots, preparing our medicine cabinets for the cold months ahead, digging out our hot water bottles and buying boxes of tissue, but what about our furry friends? Protecting your best friend from canine influenza can be daunting.
Until 2004, when an equine influenza virus was detected in greyhounds, many people didn’t even realize that dogs can catch the flu. Now that we know more about H3N2, a highly contagious strain of canine influenza, we can better protect our pups.
Luckily, most dogs that contract the H3N2 virus will only suffer mild symptoms, says veterinarian Barry Kellogg, a senior adviser with the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association but “it’s good to be cautious.”
The symptoms of canine flu—fever, cough, sneezing, lethargy, runny nose and loss of appetite—mimic those of other canine complex respiratory diseases commonly referred to as Kennel Cough. While researchers have tracked the spread of the virus, no one knows exactly how many dogs have been affected.
Unfortunately, it is difficult to differentiate between the flu and kennel cough and most veterinarians don’t test dogs automatically. If an infection “persists for more than a couple of days, develops a colored discharge as opposed to clear, or is accompanied by a high fever, anorexia and significant inactivity, those are signals that a dog may need veterinary care beyond just supportive at-home care.
Treatment will likely include antibiotics and symptoms typically go away in seven to 10 days. In more severe cases, the illness can progress to pneumonia and as with the human flu, the young, the elderly and the immune-compromised are most at risk.
It can be scary when you wake up to hear your tiny pup hacking and coughing up spittle but remember not to panic. Your vet can diagnose your little one and provide necessary medication if it is in fact the flu. Otherwise, your little guy might just need a bit of extra warmth and TLC to get him through the changing season.