Dog-Flu.Every year your doctor advises you on your health. This may include getting a yearly flu vaccine. Recently, dog flu or influenza has become more prevalent, and there are more stories in the news and on the internet.

Let’s take a few moments to discuss this problem and how it can be prevented.

Canine influenza seems to be two different strains now. The initial strain isolated was the H3N8 strain. It was first identified in racing greyhounds in Florida in 2004. It has since been found in dogs in every state. The current theory is that this virus originated from an influenza virus from horses.

Jump to 2015, and we find another outbreak. This one was the H3N2 strain, and it was isolated from an outbreak in Chicago. Since then, it has also moved to several other states. This strain is believed to originate from avian influenza, and it was initially identified in dogs from China and Thailand. The H3N2 strain is the viral strain affecting dogs in the southeast right now.

Just like flu in humans, flu in dogs is transmitted through droplets or aerosols from coughing, sneezing or barking. Just like in humans, it is more prevalent in areas where everyone is in close proximity. It is more easily transmitted in kennels, grooming facilities and dog daycare facilities.

When you have several animals in cages or areas, and they are in close contact, it is very easy to spread the virus from dog to dog. It is also easy to transmit in these facilities because it can remain viable on surfaces for up to 48 hours, on clothes for up to 24 hours, and on hands for up to 12 hours. In these facilities, many animals may be handled by the same person over an entire day. This is an excellent mode of transmission.

Incubation for the virus is one to five days. Most dogs will show signs at about two to three days, but they may not show signs until around 8 days. These dogs are infectious during the incubation period. They may not be showing signs, but they may be sharing their flu with other dogs. Sounds like a kindergarten class, doesn’t it?

Most dogs exposed to the virus will become infected. Eighty percent of these dogs will show clinical signs. They will have a runny nose, cough, and sore throat. The scary ones are the other twenty percent. They do not show signs, but they will shed the virus and infect other dogs.

Good hygiene and prevention are the only way to combat the ones that do not show clinical signs.

At this moment, the treatment is centered around treating or preventing secondary bacterial infections. The dog is given antibiotics and a cough suppressant. Remember, the antibiotic does nothing for the flu virus. The dog’s immunity must deal with the virus. The antibiotic only treats secondary bacterial infections, and these are very common in a flu infection.

The course of treatment may last from ten to twenty-one days. This may stretch longer if the flu becomes a pneumonia.

The poor dog has gone from having the flu with its mild symptoms to very sick and could die from pneumonia. I encourage you to talk to your veterinarian if your pet shows any symptoms, especially if they have been around other dogs recently for grooming, boarding, or daycare.

Your veterinarian will discuss treatment options based on the severity of the symptoms.

Prevention of the flu is the most important step. Very good vaccines exist against the flu. These would be advisable for animals that are groomed or boarded and for dogs that visit doggy daycare. It is an initial vaccine and booster in three weeks. This vaccine is then given yearly.

Talk to your veterinarian about your pet’s risk and whether the vaccine is a smart choice for them.

Lastly, there is no evidence the flu virus is contagious to humans. There has been one group of shelter cats that became infected in Indiana. The thought was they were infected from the shelter dogs. There is no current vaccine for cats against the flu.

Once again, good hygiene and preventative medicine will help to keep your fur family members healthy. Vaccinate any dog that is at high risk of contracting the virus. Also clean your clothes and any surfaces that may come in contact with a dog that may have the virus. Talk to your veterinarian about any concerns you may have.