Dogs, just like humans, can be susceptible to illnesses. When temperatures drop during the colder months and bacteria is lurking in the air, they can become unwell. Dogs can get common colds or even the canine version of Influenza known as canine Influenza or dog flu.
What is Dog Flu?
Canine Influenza or dog flu is a contagious respiratory disease. Most dogs have no natural immunity against this form of virus, so when they get exposed to it, they will more than likely get sick.
Two separate viruses cause canine Influenza – the H3N8 virus and the H3N2 virus.
The H3N8 virus is closely related to the virus that causes equine (horse) Influenza. Scientists believe that the virus has jumped species. It originated in horses, spread to dogs, and can now spread between dogs, especially those housed in kennels and shelters. Today, it’s considered as a dog or canine-specific virus.
The H3N2 virus is of bird origin and has spread to dogs. It also appears that cats can be affected by H3N2. First detected in South Korea in 2007, Canine Influenza H3N2 viruses has quickly spread to dogs in different parts of the world.
How is the Virus Spread?
Dog flu spreads through respiratory droplets produced during coughing and sneezing from infected dogs. They can also get it through contact with contaminated surfaces.
Symptoms of Dog Flu
- Runny nose
- Yellowish to greenish eye and nose discharge
- Decreased appetite
- Laboured breathing
Diagnosis can be tricky as the symptoms mimic those of the common cold and potentially more fatal illnesses such as Pneumonia and heart disease. It is always best to seek medical advice from your vet when you notice your dogs showing these symptoms. The vet will do a physical examination or various tests to get the most accurate diagnosis.
Canine Influenza virus is treated depending on its severity. For mild cases, the vet may advise ample rest, home monitoring, changes in food and an increase in fluid intake. For instances where coughing becomes worse, the vet can prescribe, cough suppressants. Most dogs recover within 2 to 3 weeks.
For those that develop a secondary infection, vets may prescribe a broad spectrum of antibiotics. Hospitalisation under intensive care may be required when the condition worsens and for severely ill pups. Sadly, a small percentage of dogs still will die from the flu despite treatment.
As much as possible, avoid exposing your dogs to other infected canines. Disinfect any toys, equipment and other surfaces that an infected dog or cat has had contact with.
Fortunately, there is no evidence that humans can catch the canine flu. If you come into contact with an ill dog, wash your hands and clothing before you touch your own pet.
Vaccinations are now available to help safeguard your dogs from severe disease caused by flu viruses. They need both H3N2 and H3N8 vaccines to ensure protection.
As pet parents, it is imperative to pay attention to any behaviour changes in your furry babies. Be aware of any physical signs like low energy, running eyes and nose, and a reduced appetite. It’s best to visit your vet to determine whether your dog has a common cold or if they’ve caught dog flu. Your vet will then be able to provide the right treatment.
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