By Deborah Hurst
Dog flu can take a cruel toll on your pup.
The canine influenza virus, which was first identified in Florida in 2004, is highly contagious and is most commonly transmitted between dogs via nose-to-nose contact or coughing and sneezing.
Dogs also can contract dog flu by coming in contact with contaminated objects including food and water bowls, bedding, toys, collars and leashes.
Dogs that are most susceptible spend lots of time with other dogs — usually through boarding, day care or at the dog park.
Dog flu cases
In 2015, a dog flu outbreak in Chicago sickened 1,000 dogs. Another outbreak earlier this year sickened dogs in Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.
Although the virus is harmful to dogs, humans cannot be infected.
The good news is dog flu is rarely fatal — less than 10 percent of flu-infected dogs die. Some severe cases may require hospitalization, but most dogs are ill for 15-30 days and require supportive treatment of rest, fluids and veterinarian-prescribed cough medicine. Some also need anti-viral medications prescribed by a veterinarian.
Dog flu symptoms
If your dog shows any of the following symptoms, consult with your veterinarian immediately: persistent cough, nasal discharge, fever, red eyes, eye discharge, lethargy and reduced appetite or weight loss.
Dogs with a mild case of dog flu will experience nasal discharge and a moist cough.
But dogs who suffer from a severe case will have a high fever — usually over 104 degrees — and can cause hemorrhagic pneumonia — which makes the dog cough up blood and have trouble breathing.
Most treatment methods involve a series of medications that help dogs fight the flu virus.
It’s also important to ensure the dog has proper living conditions. Sleeping with the dog is not a good idea. For the dog to be safe from dog flu in the first case, it is vital to consider finding a soft and comfortable dog bed that is hypo-allergenic. That’s because allergies can lead to dog flu in the long run.
Many veterinarians treat dog flu with anti-viral medications. For these medications to work, dog owners need to make sure they strictly follow the vet’s instructions. It’s also important to provide supportive care for the dog to prevent secondary infections. Your vet can offer the best advice on how to soothe your dog to ensure he gets the rest he needs to recover.
Other treatment methods include:
- Good nutrition – Healthy dog food in addition to supplements that boost the dog’s immunity.
- Rest – Ensure your dog stays calm and has a soft, comfortable place for resting.
- Medications – Follow your vet’s instructions to treat bacterial infections. Be sure to give your dog the proper dose at the right time. Be sure to stick to the schedule and use all the medicine.
- Hydration – Fluid therapy is the fastest method of treatment to relieve pain and suffering in cases of dog flu. Vets commonly recommend home fluid therapy for dogs suffering from the flu.
The virus that causes the dog flu lives on surfaces for 48 hours, clothing for 24 hours and on your hands for up to 12 hours. So good hygiene is key to keeping your dog healthy.
A vaccine is available for both the H3N2 and the older H3N8 strains of dog flu. Talk to your dog about whether your dog needs the vaccine. If she spends a lot of time around other dogs, the vaccine might be your best option to prevent dog flu.
Deborah Hurst is a veterinarian in New Orleans. She co-founded ToyPetReviews.com, which is designed to share information about the best pet toys.