While we battle one of the worst flu seasons in recent memory, it’s important to remember that there is a variation that affects dogs and cats. Most dog owners are familiar with kennel cough but don’t think about canine influenza, which shares some of the same symptoms. Dog flu isn’t as severe (kennel cough is often a combination of different viruses or bacteria), but it can be debilitating and some cases lead to pneumonia.
There isn’t a season for dog flu. Since its discovery in 2015, it has appeared all over the U.S. at different times of the year. Dogs transmit it to each other through their breath and saliva. Because it’s a virus, it can stick to objects for up to two days, which means humans and other pets can transmit it. Dogs love to jump and play with their humans, so clothing contributes significantly to its transfer.
As a result, prevention is similar to human flu prevention. However, there are a few extra steps to take if you know it’s going around:
- After touching another dog, wash your hands.
- If you’ve been to a dog park, veterinarian, shelter/rescue organization, kennel, or pet store, change your clothes.
- Isolate dogs in your household that have been affected.
- If your dog has a friend that has been infected, avoid play time for a week or two.
- Get your dog treated if he shows symptoms.
If your dog has been exposed to the virus, he’ll start showing symptoms within a day or two. More severe symptoms may appear shortly afterward. The flu mostly shows with respiratory issues, but others may appear.
- Nasal discharge.
- Appetite change.
If your dog experiences any of the following symptoms, you should make a vet appointment immediately:
- Breathing issues.
- Increased heart rate.
- Significant loss of appetite.
Like you, your dog has a robust immune system. Most dogs recover on their own within two or three weeks. Keep them quarantined with lots of water, rest, and love.
If your dog displays the severe symptoms listed above, they should visit the vet. Severe symptoms can lead to pneumonia. An immune system can only do so much, and it’s important to get help with something as severe as pneumonia. Your vet may suggest various solutions:
- Medications to treat secondary bacterial infections.
- Intravenous fluids to prevent dehydration.
- Medication for pneumonia.
Cats Can Get It Too
It’s rare, but your cat can catch the dog flu. The symptoms are a little different:
- Runny nose.
- Licking lips.
If your cat displays these, quarantine her. Again, you want to provide lots of water, rest, and love. Cats don’t appear to suffer from severe symptoms of canine influenza, but, if you’re concerned, schedule a vet visit.
While prevention is important, your actions after your dog catches the virus significantly affect other dogs. Quarantining your dog and limiting their interactions can help prevent the spread of the virus. Remember, your dog may have a mild case, but a pregnant dog or an older dog can have a severe reaction. Keeping other pets in mind helps prevention in your community.