With all the recent news about the flu, you may be wondering – “can my dog get the flu?”. Although it is quite rare for dogs to get the flu, it is still possible in domestic animals, just like humans. When a dog comes in contact with a virus, bacteria or fungus, they can catch the flu, most commonly when they come in contact with other animals. Below is some important information to know about the flu and your dog. There are home remedies available that will help make your dog feel better; however if symptoms persist, always see your veterinarian.
The virus that causes the flu in dogs is known as Influenza Type A, also known as H3N8 and H3N2. It is very contagious and tends to land in the respiratory system of dogs. According to the CDC, “There is an approved vaccine to protect dogs against canine influenza A H3N8 available in the United States. It is unknown at this time whether this vaccine will protect against the H3N2 canine flu virus”. Since the virus is transmitted through the air, it can affect your dog at any time. The most susceptible are young puppies and older dogs, and severe cases can lead to pneumonia if left untreated. The good news is that dogs that get the flu can recover completely within 2-3 weeks, with proper treatment.
Dogs that catch a mild form of canine influenza develop a soft, moist cough that persists for ten to thirty days. Sometimes the cough can be dry, similar to ‘kennel cough’, which is caused by a virus complex known as Bordetella bronchiseptica/parainfluenza. A thick, nasal discharge can occur that is usually caused by a secondary bacterial infection. High fever is typical, in the range of 104° to 106°, with clinical signs of pneumonia, such as increased respiratory effort to breathe and a higher rate of breath. The pneumonia symptoms are caused by a secondary bacterial infection.
The first symptom of a dog dealing with the flu (H3N8) is coughing. Just like humans, dogs can develop a dry, hacking cough that includes gagging or choking like they are about to vomit. Runny eyes and sneezing are signs that the flu is spreading to other parts of the body. Both the sneezing and coughing will be constant. A loss of appetite and energy is quite common, even though your dog may still be hungry.
One of the biggest concerns in managing the flu is dehydration, as your dog most likely will not be drinking enough water or urinating regularly. If your dog has a fever over 104°, schedule a visit to your veterinarian immediately so he or she can recommend the best course of treatment. Treatment will usually focus on strengthening your dog’s immune system to fight canine influenza. The typical approach is to administer fluids if your dog has become dehydrated, along with a prescription to treat the secondary bacterial infection.
While your dog is sick, it is important for you to not take your dog to places where they can be exposed to other dogs, or ask them to participate in a lot of physical activity. Disinfect all surfaces, clothing and equipment exposed to your dog to prevent spreading germs to other susceptible dogs. Wash all of your clothing in the washing machine with hot water. Comfortable arrangements need to be made for your dog with respect to isolation procedures and protocols when they are dealing with a respiratory disease. Wear disposable gloves when handling your dog during this time, and clean all areas including any contaminated cage your dog may have been in.
IF YOUR DOG IS SICK YOU SHOULD ALWAYS FIRST CONSULT WITH A VETERINARIAN
Of course, you do not want your dog to suffer for any length of time – however it is quite normal to let influenza run its course. Always provide your dog with clean, fresh water – dehydration is always a concern, especially when they have lost their appetite. Offer small bits and pieces of food and encourage them to drink water.
There are some specific herbs that help strengthen a dog’s respiratory system. They include:
- Sambucus Nigra – (elder flowers)
- Verbascum Thapsus – (mullein leaves)
Both of these herbs help support your dog’s nose, throat and lungs. When it comes to keeping their airways open and clearing their eyes and nose, there are some homeopathic ingredients to consider: Calcium sulphate, Ferrum phos and Hepar.sulph. Always follow label directions and instructions. There is no need for your dog to be uncomfortable. If symptoms persist, contact your local veterinarian for proper treatment.
Reviewed and Approved by Dr. David L. Roberts, DVM
Photo: Courtesy of Uriah Welcome via Flickr (CC by 2.0)