What is dog flu?
Dog flu first surfaced in the United States in 2015, when Florida's Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services confirmed the state's first outbreak of a highly infectious strain, according to techtimes.com
. The virus was thought to have come from birds in China, Thailand, and Korea when dogs exposed caught the disease. The strain is known as H3N2 CIV or the H3N2 canine influenza virus and can also spread to cats, but not humans. If left untreated it can become pneumonia and is not typically fatal. Here's what you need to know about the flu virus
Symptoms of dog flu
Dog flu symptoms include: coughing, sneezing, nasal discharge, lethargy, lack of appetite, fever, and possibly labored breathing if the dog develops pneumonia, says Sarah McKenny, an associate veterinarian at Petwell Partners
. McKenny cautions that these signs maybe not be solely indicative of the flu. "Coughing and labored breathing can also be symptoms associated with heart disease. It is also possible for a dog to be contagious without any symptoms
," said McKenny. If your dog has any of the signs listed above, make an appointment with your vet for a checkup.
Dog flu treatment
Treatment is primarily supportive care, because by the time dogs are showing clinical signs of dog flu, antiviral medication is not going to be effective. Supportive care may include intravenous or subcutaneous fluids, cough suppressants, and proper nutrition
. According to McKenny, if a dog should acquire secondary pneumonia or bacterial rhinitis, then antibiotics may be warranted. Antibiotics target the bacteria that proliferate in the respiratory tract that has been damaged by the virus, however, antibiotics will have no effect on the virus itself. Dogs that have pneumonia and severely compromised lung function may require oxygen supplementation. If they are sick or have potentially been exposed to the virus, specifically H3N2, they should be isolated for at least 21 days, even if the clinical signs have resolved, so as not to expose other dogs to the virus.
Dog flu prevention and protection
McKenny says one of the best ways people can protect their dogs is to avoid exposure to canine influenza. The virus is spread in the respiratory secretions of dogs so one should avoid areas where large numbers of dogs gather such as dog shows, doggie day care, dog parks
, boarding facilities, and groomers if there have been outbreaks in your area. She also cautions people to avoid sharing water bowls and toys with unknown dogs. "Immunocompromised dogs in particular may want to be especially careful since they are more susceptible to infection. In reality, no dog can live in bubble, so weigh the risk with the reward. If you do need to use a boarding facility or day care, consider using one that requires the canine influenza vaccine as a prerequisite for admission," she said. You can also protect your pet by vaccination. However one should know that the canine influenza vaccines are generally not considered core vaccines so you might have to ask their veterinarian for them specifically. One should note that although canine influenza spreads easily, it is rarely fatal and is not known to have any long-term health effects. Most dogs recover in two to three weeks barring any additional complications.
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