We aren’t the only ones susceptible to catching something during flu season - dogs can get the flu, too! Canine influenza, also known as dog flu, is a strain of flu virus that affects our canine companions. While it is not the same as the flu virus humans are susceptible to, there are a few similarities.
What is dog flu?
Dog flu is a highly contagious virus that can be passed amongst dogs, and in some cases, can be passed to cats, too. Dog flu can be transmitted several ways. The most common is dog-to-dog contact, or through the air when sneezing or coughing dogs are near each other, which can occur amongst pets in close proximity to one another, such as in grooming, boarding, or daycare scenarios or crowded places like dog parks and walking trails. Additionally, it can be transmitted through objects contaminated by sick dogs, such as sharing toys or water bowls, or even through people who touch a sick pet and don’t thoroughly sanitize themselves before touching a healthy pet.
What are the symptoms of dog flu?
While not all pets will show symptoms, pets affected by dog flu may exhibit the following:
● Loss of appetite
● Nasal discharge (runny nose)
● Fever (103 degrees or more)
It is important to closely monitor your pet’s symptoms, as more severe cases of dog flu can lead to secondary infections and complications that can quickly become serious or life-threatening. Seek urgent care if your pet is displaying any of the following:
● Difficulty breathing
● Prolonged appetite loss/refusing food or water
How is dog flu diagnosed?
There are tests that can determine if your pet is affected by dog flu versus another upper respiratory illness as most share similar symptoms. However, please notify your veterinarian if your pet has had exposure to a pet with dog flu. Please speak with your veterinarian about your pet’s symptoms and history to determine whether testing is right for your pet.
How is dog flu treated?
It is important to note that unlike bacterial respiratory infections such as Kennel Cough, dog flu cannot be treated with antibiotics. There is no “cure” for dog flu, so the only thing to do is wait for it to pass while working with your veterinarian to keep your pet as comfortable as possible and manage their symptoms. Additional supportive care, such as IV fluids, fever-reducing medications, or antibiotics for secondary infections may be recommended by your veterinarian.
IMPORTANT: Do not give your pet any over-the-counter medications. The medications that make us feel better when we have cold/flu symptoms are not intended for use in pets, and administering these medications to pets may result in severe toxicity or death. Only give medications prescribed and as instructed by your veterinarian.
Are some pets more at risk than others?
Due to how contagious the dog flu virus is, pets of all ages may be at risk for contracting it. Like with other viruses or illnesses, certain groups of pets may be more at risk, such as young animals, pets with underlying medical conditions or auto-immune disease, and senior pets. These pets may have a more difficult time fighting off the virus and need additional supportive care during their recovery.
Can dog flu be prevented?
In addition to isolating your pet from other pets whenever possible, there is a vaccine for dog flu. The dog flu vaccine series involves two initial vaccines, given 4 weeks apart, and then boostered on an annual basis thereafter. While the vaccine cannot guarantee that your pet will not contract dog flu, it greatly reduces the risk of contraction and makes the symptoms far less severe. Due to the recent outbreaks across the DFW area, we are currently recommending the dog flu vaccine to our patients.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can my dog give me the flu or vice versa?
Dog flu cannot be passed to humans, nor can humans pass the flu to their pets as the strains of flu that affect each species are different.
What should I do if I have multiple pets but only one is showing symptoms?
If you have multiple dogs and only one or some are showing symptoms, we recommend quarantining them from your other pets to the best of your ability. Keeping the sick pets in a separate area of the house, washing all beddings, bowls, and toys that might have been touched by the sick pet, pottying them in different areas of the yard, and washing your hands thoroughly after caring for your sick pet may prove to be somewhat helpful in preventing further spread. However, it is important to keep in mind that due to the contagious nature of the dog flu virus, spread to other pets in the household is likely. Additionally, not all pets affected by dog flu will show symptoms.
Are dog flu and kennel cough the same?
No, while many canine upper respiratory infections involve similar symptoms, dog flu and kennel cough are different. Dog flu is a viral infection, whereas kennel cough is caused by bacteria. Generally, kennel cough is considered far less serious and almost all dogs affected by kennel cough make a full recovery. Extra care and precautions should be taken with dog flu as it can have higher risk of complications.
Should I disinfect my house if my pet is sick?
Normal cleaning measures can be taken to disinfect your house, but no special instruction or cleaning protocol is necessary. As always, be sure to check that all cleaning products used in the home are pet-safe, and avoid cleaning areas that your pets are currently occupying. Always wait for cleaning agents to completely dry or air out before allowing a pet back into that area. Due to how contagious the dog flu virus is, we recommend not allowing outside pets into your home for a while after contamination.
My pets only go outside to walk or potty in the backyard and are never around other dogs. Are they still at risk?
Because dog flu can be spread through contaminated surfaces or through the air via fence-to-fence contact, even pets who don’t spend much time around other animals can still contract dog flu, although they may be at less risk than pets who are more social.
If my dog has had dog flu in the past, are they at risk for catching it again?
Yes, pets who have previously contracted dog flu are still susceptible to catching it again in the future. For this reason, we recommend keeping up with your pet’s dog flu vaccine boosters to help protect against future infection!
Please contact your veterinarian immediately if you have noticed new or concerning symptoms in your pets. Seek emergency medical care if your pet appears to be having difficulties breathing. For additional questions, please contact us at 972-347-6100.