Just like human flu, dog flu is highly contagious and transmitted through close contact. Although there haven’t been any recent outbreaks in the New York area, there have been many cases recently in several states. It’s much more likely to spread in such a concentrated vicinity if a pup here came down with it, so the best thing you can do as a dog owner is to read up and be prepared.
What is canine influenza?
The flu virus has several strains — remember avian flu and swine flu? — of which one is canine influenza, or dog flu. It doesn’t infect people, but it can make your pup feel seriously under the weather. Once exposed, it can take a couple of days for dogs to show symptoms, which include coughing and sneezing, lethargy, nasal discharge, and loss of appetite. Though the virus is very rarely fatal, severe cases can lead to bigger health concerns like high fever and pneumonia. The 2014 outbreak in the Midwest saw well over 1,000 cases, and there have been reports of it in at least 30 states.
How can I prevent or treat dog flu?
1. Watch vigilantly for symptoms, especially if there have been other cases near you. If you see symptoms in your pup, isolate him for 2 weeks — that’s how long the virus can be contagious.
2. Dogs love playtime with other pups, but take care to socialize them in controlled situations. In crowded New York — between the dog parks, doggie daycare, and crowded sidewalks — this can be especially tricky, but it can take 3 days for symptoms to show, so you can’t be certain if another canine friend is infected.
3. Ask your vet about a dog flu vaccine. It’s not preventive, but it will lessen the severity of a flu if your doggie gets sick. It’s usually only administered to at-risk dogs.
4. Just like you do during flu season, wash your hands after you’ve had contact with other dogs before you pet your own.
5. Short-snouted dogs like pugs, bulldogs, and boxers have more trouble coping with respiratory diseases than others because of their crowded airways. Dog flu is no exception, so be on high alert if your dog is at risk.
6. Senior pets have weaker immune systems, so give them some TLC and move quickly if they start to show symptoms.
7. If your dog seems down, encourage eating. He may lose his appetite with the flu and you don’t want him to shed weight while his body tries to recover.
Dog flu is scary — not only does it cause you to worry about your pet, but it can also be hard to know how to proceed. As always, we at Pampered Pets are here to provide individualized attention to your pet through one-on-one walks and caring for them in their own home. Let us help you alleviate the stress of canine flu season.