Dog flu – does it exist? Do dogs get influenza?
Just like human influenza, there are strains of dog influenza. Yes, dogs can get sick with the flu. A few years ago, several Greyhounds at a racing track in Florida came down with flu.
So, to answer your question: do dogs get flu? Yes, they could get the flu and it is quite serious too. Let us study everything there is to know about canine influenza, its treatment, and also a bit about the ways to prevent it.
Can Dogs Get Influenza from Humans and Vice-a-Versa?
Yes, dog influenza does exist. Different strains of viruses can cause dog flu. The good news is that the answer to the question: can dogs get flu from humans is NO.
Each year, especially in the winter season, there are hundreds of viruses that infect humans and other primates. However, the flu viruses that infect humans (and other primates), do not infect dogs.
So, if you are in bed with a cold, and your dog wants to snuggle with you, you should let him! He won’t catch the flu from you. Nor can you get a cold/flu from your dog. So, go ahead, give your pet a big KISS. He/she deserves it!
What Causes Flu in Dogs?
In the Florida Greyhounds case mentioned above, a strain of horse flu mutated and attacked racing dogs. Sometimes, strains of ‘bird flu’ could also infect them. In China and Thailand, a virus strain – H3N2 – affected both cats and dogs. (In both countries, there were no human-to-dog transmissions reported).
So, you can definitely state that humans and dogs do not spread flu to each other.
In almost all cases of dog flu, there is a history of contact with another infected dog. Also, since there are different strains each year, dogs do not have immunity to the strain. As a result, nearly 100% of dogs exposed to the virus are likely to get it.
However, not all dogs will get sick from it.
The virus spreads through direct contact with body fluids through licking, sniffing, sneezing, coughing, etc. Stress, poor diet, and low immunity could increase their risk of developing symptoms. Also, environments, where your pet is likely to come in close contact with other infected ones, can promote the infection: dog parks, dog hostels or boarding facilities, puppy training schools, among others.
What are the Symptoms of Flu in Dogs?
Although quite rare, dog flu is no laughing matter. Fatality rates can be as high as 5 to 8% if the affected dog does not receive prompt treatment.
Dog Flu Signs and Symptoms
Here are some signs and symptoms of canine influenza:
- High fever
- Runny or red eyes
- Loss of appetite
- Nasal discharge
Dogs with mild symptoms usually only have nasal discharge and a wet cough or kennel cough. In mild cases, these symptoms go away within 10-30 days. Your vet might prescribe antibiotics if there is a secondary bacterial infection. For severe cough, your vet might also prescribe some cough suppressants.
In some extreme cases of H3N2 flu, dogs can develop very severe symptoms like:
- High fever over 104 F
- Coughing up blood
- Difficulty in breathing
Your dog might need hospitalization along with IV fluids in such cases. It is important that you isolate your pet from other household dogs to prevent the spread of the disease.
How Can You Protect Your Pet from Dog Flu?
Get your Pet Vaccinated
The dog flu vaccine, like the human flu vaccine, isn’t 100% effective. However, it can reduce the severity of the disease.
If you plan on boarding your dog, speak to your vet about the dog flu vaccine or kennel cough vaccine to protect your pet.
Avoid Exposure to High-risk Places
Canine flu, as mentioned above, is more common in dog boarding facilities, hostels, and dog parks. It is best to avoid these areas if there is a known outbreak.
Feed your Pet a Nutritious Diet to Build Natural Immunity
You must also provide your dog with an antioxidant and probiotic-rich diet to increase its natural immunity. Speak to your vet about the right diet and multi-vitamin/mineral supplement, if needed.
Dogs get stressed when there is a change in their routine or environment. As much as possible, minimize stress in your pet’s life. Follow a routine with plenty of exercise in fresh air followed by good nutritious food. Play with your pet and spend quality time together. This will help reduce stress and anxiety.
What Should You Do If Your Dog Develops Flu Symptoms?
In mild cases, your dog’s body will fight the disease on its own.
- Provide your dog with a quiet place to rest.
- Make sure you give him/her plenty of fresh drinking water/fluids to avoid dehydration.
- Try feeding some bland foods like rice, chicken broth, crackers, plain yogurt, etc.
See your vet right away if symptoms worsen.
Summary – Key Takeaways on Dog Flu
Dog flu is serious. If you notice signs like coughing, breathlessness, lethargy, and fever, see your vet immediately.
There is a preventive dog flu vaccine but it isn’t 100% effective. Still, it is worth a shot if you have to board your pet at the dog boarding facility/pet hostel. As far as possible, avoid contact with infected dogs at parks or boarding facilities. Feed your pet a nutritious diet to build its immunity to infections.
With proper care, daily exercise, hygiene, and good food, you can protect your pet from dog flu.