Even Dogs Get the Flu: Canine Influenza 101

You know it’s cold and flu season when your entire family is up all night coughing and their temperatures are on the rise. This was the scene at our home last week.  One person got sick after the next, leaving our dog Laly, as the only healthy member of the family.  That’s not to say dogs don’t get the flu. Canine influenza can be a serious  year-round threat to dogs.

The most common sign of dog flu is a soft, wet cough that may last for 3 to 4 weeks. Other signs include fever, runny nose, fatigue, and loss of appetite. According to Amy Adelman, DVM at Vinegar Hill Veterinary Group, “canine influenza appears to primarily affect populations of dogs that are housed close together, such as in shelters, boarding facilities, or at dog shows.”

The canine influenza virus was first identified in January 2004 and dog flu cases have now been reported in 39 states. When I asked Dr. Adelman about dog flu in Brooklyn she told us, “New York in general has been found to have a higher prevalence of diagnosed cases than many other states, and while cases certainly have been diagnosed in Brooklyn, it is still not what I would call a hotbed for it.”

Most dogs have no natural immunity against canine influenza so virtually all dogs exposed to the virus become infected. Don’t panic about sharing living quarters and receiving slobbery kisses from a sick pooch. Canine influenza only affects dogs and cannot be passed to humans.

Vaccinating your dog against the virus is one line of defense. Katja Lang, DVM at Cobble Hill Animal Clinic  says, “the canine influenza vaccine is considered a ‘non-core’ vaccine, which means that not all dogs require it unless they are considered at risk. With the vaccine, dogs can still contract the influenza virus but show milder clinical signs and are less contagious to other animals.”

If you think your pet may be at risk, contact your veterinarian to discuss possible vaccination. To help you prepare for your next trip to the vet, visit  www.mypet.com and  take a risk assessment to find out what diseases your pet may be at risk for and how to protect against them.

This post is in participation with the DogTime Blog Champions program.  No compensation was received and information was provided with references. 


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