sick puppy

Watch Out: Dog Flu on the Rise in the U.S.

It’s winter once again, which means, like clockwork, flu season is officially slithering its way across the United States. But the flu isn’t just bad news for us anymore.

Canine influenza is a relatively new disease, but in only ten years it has spread from just two states to the vast majority of the United States. The disease is highly contagious, affecting dogs of all types and breeds, and because cases only started appearing a few years ago, dogs have no natural immunities against it.

In 2017, veterinarians across the country reported cases in 46 of 50 states, with North Dakota and Nebraska being the only two continental states without any reported incidents.

Some states only reported having one of the two strains (H3N8 and H3N2), while more than half of the rest were affected by both. To make matters worse, dogs affected with canine flu can eventually develop pneumonia.

While canine flu is thankfully not zoonotic (meaning that it cannot be passed from dogs to humans), it’s still a huge cause for concern for dog owners.

Transmission and Symptoms

Dog flu can be transmitted through the air via coughing and sneezing, it can be transmitted through objects that carry infected material, it can be transmitted through fluid coming from the eyes, and it can be spread through common social behaviors, such as licking. Perhaps worst of all, there is no canine flu season—the threat is present all year round.

The sheer ease of transmission is certainly one of the most troublesome aspects of the disease, and it makes the risks of transmission in highly populated areas, such as boarding kennels and shelters, far more dangerous.

If you are worried that your dog may have contracted canine flu, observe him to see if he exhibits any of the following symptoms.

  • Coughing and/or sneezing
  • A temperature exceeding 103° F
  • Lack of energy
  • Decreased appetite
  • Vomiting and/or hacking
  • Rapid breathing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Mucous discharge from the nose

If your dog is exhibiting one or more of these symptoms, get him to a veterinarian as soon as possible for an official diagnosis and treatment. Even if your dog doesn’t have the flu, it’s better to be safe than sorry, especially due to the highly contagious nature of the illness.

Keep Your Pup Safe

Naturally, any responsible dog owner will want to do everything possible to keep his or her dog safe. Thankfully, there are a few steps owners can take to guard their dogs against the flu.

  1. Wash all dishes and toys regularly to decrease the chances of contamination. Canine influenza can survive on objects and in environments for up to two days if left untreated.
  2. Remember that frequenting areas where other dogs will be present, such as dog parks, doggy daycare centers, or grooming facilities, may increase your dog’s risk of catching the disease.
  3. Consider vaccinating your dog against canine influenza. Vaccines that protect against both strains— H3N8 and H3N2—are currently available. Ask your dog’s veterinarian if vaccinating makes the most sense for your dog and your location.
  4. Stay up to date on potential outbreaks that may occur in your area.

If you keep these four tips in mind, you will stand a much better chance of keeping your dog safe from an outbreak of canine flu. While no protection is 100-percent guaranteed, taking deliberate steps to lessen exposure to the disease while staying up to date on potential outbreaks in your area will go a long way toward ensuring your pup’s health.

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