I had a great chat about Canine Flu with my dear friend and fellow dog lover, Mary Lou Davidson of Sarasota Dog. Click on the link to listen to the interview.
Still have questions ? Here are some FAQs about Canine influenza.
By Mary Lou Davidson and Dr. Wendy
So we've heard about the canine flu up north and even in Northern Florida - do we really need to worry about it here?
Yes. As with human flu it spreads through the air and virtually all dogs can become infected. Not all will get sick but they can shed virus to other dogs. In our dog friendly world, more of our pups are lucky enough to go out and about but being a doggie social butterfly has risks.
Who/what kind of dogs are most at risk?
The H3N2 strain of canine influenza is an emerging disease so our dog population does not have immunity to it. This means any dog of any age or breed can become infected if they are exposed. Because the flu is spread though aerosolized nasal secretions, dogs with an active social life where they come in contact with many other dogs(go to the dog park, groomers, daycare, ect) are most at risk.
How it spread?
The flu virus spreads through nose to nose contact and through the air. It can travel up to 20 feet. Fomites like water bowls, toys, and even people can spread disease. Just think about the preventative measures you take during flu season like avoiding coughing people, crowds and washing your hands. The flu virus can live on some surfaces for up to 48 hours, on clothing for 24 hours and on hands for 12 hours so good hygiene is an important way to combat the spread of canine flu.
Who is the most susceptible? (older and very young dogs)
All dogs are can become infected and up to 80 % of dogs will develop signs like a high fever, cough, nasal discharge. They may be very tired and lose their appetite. The 20 % that do not show clinical signs can still shed the virus and spread infection. About 8 % of dogs develop 2 nd pneumonia even with treatment. If they are lethargic and have difficulty breathing, they will require medical attention.
What signs would make me think my dog might have Canine Flu?
Think about how you feel with the flu. You are tired, coughing, achy, fever, have a runny nose and shortness of breath(panting). Signs usually appear in 2-3 days after exposure. Most dogs recover within 2 weeks with supportive care and a course of antibiotics that reduces the chance of a secondary bacterial infection. Dog can remain infective up to 4 weeks and the cough can last up to 8 weeks.
Should I consider this an emergency?
Most cases are not an emergency. If you suspect your doggie has the flu, do not go to the clinic. Call your veterinarian and let them know when you first noted signs of coughing, if you have been to a show, day care or dog event within the past week, if your dog was around another dog that was coughing.
Your vet may want to collect a nasal swab to test for flu and other viruses but may visit you by house call or have you enter a separate entrance to the clinic to avoid exposing other dogs. About 10 % of dogs develop pneumonia even with treatment. If they are lethargic and have difficulty breathing, they will require hospitalization.
What's the best treatment?
The best treatment is a course of antibiotics and supportive care so rest, fluids, high quality food. Bone broth bone-soup-for-dogs-and-cats.html(recipe) or bone broth congee congee-recipe.html(recipe) is a very nutritious treat for a sick dog. If your dog is coughing, isolate them and other dogs in your household for 4 weeks to prevent the spread of disease to your puppy’s friends.
A vaccine is now available and requires an initial dose followed by a booster 4 weeks later. Vaccination does not prevent infection but it may reduce the severity and duration of clinical signs. We recommend dogs with an active social life consider flu vaccination. If you currently vaccinate your dog for kennel cough, you may consider the flu vaccine as well. If your dog goes to the groomers, day care or events, try to get your series of vaccinations completed a few weeks before. Yearly vaccination is recommended.
What's the survival rate?
About 10% of cases can become life threatening. Secondary bacterial infection in a dog that already has a compromised immune system or breathing problem can require hospitalization. A small number of deaths due to canine flu have been reported but most dogs recover without incident.
Can cats catch "Canine Flu"?
It can infect cats and they will have a mild cough and usually recover quickly.
There have been no reported fatalities from canine flu in cats.
How about people?
There has been no evidence that Canine flu infects people.
Where can people find more information about the Canine Flu.
For the official source of accurate dog flu info and the most current updates, visit the University of Florida’s CVM website.