Why should all dog owners and potential adopters be aware of canine influenza, aka dog flu? Dogs who come into contact with other dogs at places like animal shelters and boarding kennels are at risk for dog flu. Here’s some important and practical information for pet parents about keeping your dog safe from canine influenza, courtesy of the American Veterinary Medical Association.
What is Canine Influenza?
Dog flu in the U.S. is caused by an influenza A virus called CIV (canine influenza virus). A sick dog can spread it to other dogs through things like barking, coughing, and sneezing. It is also spread via objects like bowls and leashes, and surfaces like kennel floors. People who come into contact with an infected dog can also spread it to other dogs. While it does not harm people, it can be caught by dogs at any time of the year.
What are the Symptoms of Dog Flu?
Canine influenza can easily be confused with kennel cough (a type of bronchitis). Dogs with canine influenza will cough, have nasal secretions, and run a fever. You may also see such symptoms as eye discharge, lethargy, and lack of appetite. Some dogs may develop secondary infections like pneumonia. Your vet can diagnose dog flu with a simple swab test.
How to Prevent Dog Flu from Spreading
Dogs are at their most contagious during what’s called the incubation period of the virus (the first few days of infection before they start showing any symptoms). Most dogs will come down with the flu after exposure to the virus.
Isolation of infected dogs is the best way to prevent other dogs from getting sick. Dogs known to have been exposed but who are not showing symptoms should also be isolated. Thorough cleaning of all kennel surfaces and objects (as well as the hands of human caregivers) is key to preventing the spread of the virus.
Not all strains of the canine influenza virus have a proven vaccine. A 2015 outbreak in the U.S. was traced to a type of dog flu from Asia, and it is unclear whether or not current vaccines will work against this new strain. A vaccination could help reduce the severity of the symptoms if your dog becomes infected. Dogs who frequently come into contact with other dogs (including at the dog park and doggy day care) are good candidates for the dog flu vaccine.
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