It’s flu season all right — but did you know that your dog can get the flu too?
The canine flu is indeed a contagious respiratory infection, according to American Veterinary Medical Association president-elect Dr. John de Jong.
U.S. News asked de Jong to sift through some common concerns you probably have about your dog’s health:
What does the dog flu look like? Dogs can have mild or severe cases, just like the human flu. In milder forms, dogs can get coughs that last for 10 days, 21 days or even a month. They might be lethargic, have a mild fever, start sneezing or have discharge from their eyes or nose. It’s very often mistaken for kennel cough. Severe cases result in a high fever of 104 degrees and up. You’d start to see signs of pneumonia with labored breathing.
In any of these cases, dogs should be getting fluids (though not always more than they normally drink), rest and antibiotics if they get a secondary bacterial infection. Treatment ultimately depends on the individual pet, as in whether they have such a bacterial infection, pneumonia or dehydration, among other conditions, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association website. Most dogs recover in all cases. If dogs are showing any of these clinical signs, you should take them to the vet.
How does it spread? Like any other respiratory virus: dog sneezing, barking, coughing, etc.
What can I do to prevent my dog from getting the flu? Make sure when you take your dog outside — whether that’s to a doggie day care, a play group or walking them — that you keep them away from sick dogs. You can’t always prevent that, so do the best you can.
Can I vaccinate my dog? Should I? Yes, you can vaccinate your dog. Though if your dog isn’t going to dog shows or isn’t in an area with a high risk population, you might not need it. De Jong says there hasn’t been a lot of the dog flu in the Northeast, where he is based. About 1 in 4 doggie day cares/boarding facilities require dog flu vaccinations in the U.S., he says. These locations are trying to protect themselves and animals in their care as a precaution.
Could my dog pass it along to me? No (whew). But it has been reported to infect cats, and there’s evidence guinea pigs and ferrets can be infected.
How many strains are there? There are two strains in the United States. The H3N8 virus emerged in 2004 from an equine source, and the H3N2 strain started causing illnesses in the Chicago area and Midwest in 2015 from an avian source. De Jong says he understands H3N2 is more prevalent right now, but both are out there.
More information from the American Veterinary Medical Association is available here.
More from U.S. News