It has been a rough flu season for us humans. But did you know dogs can catch the flu, too? Just like the normal flu, dog flu is an illness that mostly affects the respiratory system, resulting in coughing, sniffling, malaise, and in rare cases death. Educating yourself about dog flu—its risks and symptoms—is the best way to protect your pup from the virus. Here’s what you need to know.
What is Dog Flu
Dog flu, also known as canine influenza, is a viral infection that affects—you guessed it—dogs. It’s fairly new (it was first discovered in 2004) and highly contagious. It’s estimated that 80% of all dogs that come into contact with the virus will display symptoms. A sneeze or cough from an infected pup is all it takes to spread the virus. Dogs that frequent public canine spaces—like dog parks and kennels—are most at risk of contracting dog flu. In short, if your dog spends a lot of time around other dogs, their chance of getting canine influenza is higher. And just in case you’re worried—No, you can’t catch dog flu from your dog.
What are the Symptoms?
The most common dog flu symptoms are not unlike those associated with human flu; they include:
- Persistent cough
- Runny nose
- Loss of appetite
- Gooey discharge from the eyes
How Dangerous is Dog Flu
The good news is that dog flu is not as scary as it might sound. Less than 10% of all dogs that contract the virus die from it. And these are typically the result of complications like pneumonia, or a preexisting health condition. Older pups, puppies and smushed-faced breeds like pugs and bulldogs are especially vulnerable to the effects of canine influenza. But generally, most dogs enjoy a full recovery in 2 to 3 weeks. Regardless, we suggest consulting a vet if you suspect your pet has contracted dog flu, especially if the symptoms are severe.
How to Protect Your Dog From Canine Flu
Other than keeping your pup at home and away from other dogs, there aren’t many options for guarding against dog flu. And frankly, such measures are rarely necessary unless there’s an active outbreak in your area. Similarly, if your pup is showing signs of dog flu, spare the local dog community and keep your pooch at home until their symptoms subside. There’s also a dog flu vaccine for canine influenza. But it’s a bit controversial, as there’s significant disagreement in the pet care community regarding just how effective and necessary the vaccine really is. Even when administered correctly, the vaccine is not 100% effective. Vaccinated dogs, however, do experience milder cases of the flu compared to those that are not vaccinated. Ultimately, vaccinating your pup is a personal decision that each individual has to make about their own dog in collaboration with their veterinarian.