Canine Influenza Can Trouble Dogs to Varying Degrees

Like humans, dogs are susceptible to diseases like viral infections. Canine influenza is a type of dog flu that can affect dogs without owners being any the wiser.

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Some dogs show no symptoms at all. However, there are cases where dogs become moderately or severely ill, with only a small percentage of pets facing death.

Owners should not fear for their health if their dog falls ill with canine influenza. There isn't evidence that canine influenza can jump to humans from an infected pet. By knowing the signs of canine influenza, owners can be prepared to find the proper treatment for their pets, avoid complications, and take preventative measures to ensure their pets stay safe from this disease and don't place other dogs at risk.

What Causes Canine Influenza?

Canine influenza is a respiratory illness from a family of viruses known as Type A influenza viruses. These types of viruses are infectious to dogs year-round and are not known to affect humans. The two main strains of canine influenza viruses are the H3N8 virus and H3N2 virus.

Like viruses spread among humans, canine influenza viruses spread faster in spaces where there are several dogs in confined spaces, like shelters and kennels. When dogs are contagious, they spread the virus through the aerosol of their respiratory droplets. When dogs cough or sneeze, they have a higher chance of spreading the disease to other dogs nearby. Surfaces that an infected dog touches can also spread the disease. The virus can exist on surfaces for up to 48 hours after direct contact with a contagious pet.

To prevent contagion, pet owners should keep sick pets away from other dogs. Also, pet owners must thoroughly clean and disinfect water bowls, collars, toys, and clothing, as well as places like kennels and beds after they come into contact with an infected dog.

Symptoms of Canine Influenza

After initial exposure, the disease can incubate for 2 to 4 days before presenting as symptoms in a pet. Some dogs are asymptomatic when they become infected. When symptoms do arise, they can range from mild to severe and can be present for 2 to 3 weeks until recovery, barring complications. Unlike the human flu, canine influenza is not seasonal, and infections can happen at any point in the year.

Mild symptoms can include a slight fever, sneezing, lethargy, or a reduced appetite. A cough, runny nose, and eye discharge that won't go away despite treatment with antibiotics are other signs that a dog may be infected. Coughs from a canine influenza infection can be dry or moist, with the presence of mucus.

More severe symptoms include severe fever and difficulty breathing. Pneumonia and other bacterial infections may also present themselves as complications to canine influenza.

Treating Your Dog

When dogs display symptoms, Owners should promptly make an appointment with the veterinarian for a check-up. Veterinarians can evaluate the pet's symptoms and determine whether they should test the dog for the presence of the H3N8 and H3N2 strains.

A confirmed diagnosis means the dog will have to receive special care to help fight off the infection. Care involves maintaining the pet's hydration and providing it rest as it strengthens its body. Prompt care can be essential to prevent complications like pneumonia from the infection. If a bacterial infection results from the disease, dogs may also be treated with antibiotics to relieve that condition.

If veterinary testing and evaluation determine that a dog does not have canine influenza, owners should consider whether they have their pet vaccinated. Inoculations for canine influenza are available for pets in the United States and can reduce the risk of illness in the future.

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