Been seeing news about dogs getting the flu lately? Here is what you need to know.
Canine Influenza (flu) is a viral disease that mutated from the Avian flu virus. The initial outbreak was restricted to Greyhound racetracks but has now found its way across America. This summer, there were over 800 reported cases in Los Angeles and Los Angeles county. A daycare/boarding facility here in Claremont has recently had reported cases.
How is canine flu transmitted and what are the symptoms?
Like all respiratory viruses, canine flu is airborne and is spread by the sneezing or coughing of infected dogs or the sniffing of nasal discharges from infected dogs. The incubation period is about 2-4 days after exposure. Early symptoms are sneezing with a clear nasal discharge that may progress to a greenish, mucoid discharge and a mild temperature of 103o-104oF (102.5oF is normal for dogs). The condition may progress to pneumonia with severe coughing and higher body temperatures. This cough can last for weeks.
How is canine flu diagnosed and treated?
Routine lab work will not confirm the flu and may only indicate the possibility of secondary bacterial pneumonia. Veterinarians suspicious of the disease need to request a special blood test from the laboratory to confirm the disease. As with humans, there are no medications for treating viruses.
Veterinarians may give antibiotics if they suspect secondary bacterial pneumonia otherwise the disease must run its course. Hospitalization is sometimes required for dogs needing IV fluid therapy or oxygen therapy, but outpatient treatment is preferred due to the severe contagion risk to other dogs in the hospital setting.
Cough suppressants are not advised for dogs with viral or secondary bacterial pneumonias. Bronchodilators may be helpful for dogs with pneumonia. Symptoms generally start to decrease after 2 weeks but dogs are considered contagious for 4 weeks and should be kept isolated from other dogs until then.
Note: Because we are not a hospital facility with an isolation ward, to ensure that your dog will be safe coming to see us, The Well Dog Place does not allow any dogs suspected of having canine flu into our office. We welcome them back when recovered, one month after the onset of symptoms.
Is there a vaccine to protect against canine flu?
Yes. Presently there is a vaccine to protect dogs from the 2 common strains of canine flu. Unfortunately, it is not a mercury-free vaccine, so The Well Dog Place is not using it. Instead, we recommend avoidance of dog boarding or daycare, grooming facilities, and dog parks.
Pet sitters and mobile groomers are better alternatives. Strict adherence to a wellness program will also enhance your dog’s resistance to infection. Not on a wellness program? We can help. Call 909.929.0778 for a wellness appointment.