Canine influenza or dog flu is just as contagious for our best friend, as it is for us humans. Just as with the human flu, there are different strains of the flu, and they vary in their symptoms and severity. Many rumors have gone around saying that the flu was introduced to the United States via dogs from Asia, but there is really no evidence to support this idea. The first case of the strain of H3N8 flu was found in racing greyhounds in January 2004, but it has been documented in 30 states and in Washington, D.C. since then, including cases of Chicago dog flu that have recently taken the lives of at least 5 dogs.
Dog Flu Transmission
Canine influenza A is spread through secretions from the respiratory system and can contaminate objects, such as food and water bowls, collars, leashes, and kennel surfaces. The virus can live up to 48 hours on surfaces, on clothing for 24 hours, and on hands for 12 hours, which is why it is so contagious.
Dog flu incubation is usually 2-4 days from the time of exposure to the beginning of the symptoms and dogs are most contagious during this time period. While the period before the illness onset is the most contagious time, it can continue up to 7 or even 10 days in some dogs. Canine influenza is not seasonal, as it is with the human flu, and it can be experienced year around.
Canine Influenza Symptoms
The most noticeable symptoms are respiratory in nature. This can include a runny nose, sore throat, or cough. Also, not eating, lethargy, and sneezing can be found, as well as a low-grade fever. Many times, it is diagnosed as kennel cough at the onset because the symptoms are so similar.
Since the virus replicates inside the cells of the respiratory tract, this makes your dog more susceptible to secondary bacterial infections during this time, which can contribute to the nasal discharge and the cough. In addition, it can progress to pneumonia, where your canine may have problems breathing and a high-grade fever.
Identifying Dog Flu
It can be difficult to identify canine influenza A because it mimics other respiratory issues, including kennel cough, but a proper identification is essential to ensure that your dog is getting the care they need. A blood test may be necessary, although it can also be found in a nasal or throat swab during the first four days of the illness.
Addressing Canine Influenza
It is important to visit your veterinarian to know the best course of action to be taken. Medication is not normally given, unless there is a secondary infection or fever/inflammation.
Proper fluid and food intake is also important, as well as being vigilant to any changes in symptoms, as they could indicate something more serious, including a secondary infection or even pneumonia.
Keep your dog isolated from other dogs during the illness, as they are very contagious for up to 10 days.
While most dog owners don’t know much about the canine flu, it is important to know the signs to ensure you get your pet the supportive care that they need. After all, our dogs are our best friends, so we need to treat them as such.