Canine Influenza: 3 Things All Dog Owners Should Know

You may have seen it on the news: canine influenza is incredibly contagious, and has been spreading in many areas. Before you panic, know that it’s rarely deadly. However, no one likes seeing their pups sick, and no one likes spending extra money in veterinary bills!

Although different strains will continue to emerge (just like with human sickness), there are some things you can do in order to prevent exposure to your dog. For the best chances of keeping your canine as healthy as possible, check out these 3 things all dog owners should know about canine influenza.

1. When should I vaccinate my dog?

Any dog or puppy at risk for exposure to infected dogs should be vaccinated as soon as possible. The vaccine must be repeated (boostered) in 3-4 weeks. Because the current circulating strain is called H3N2, be sure that your veterinarian has the correct strain vaccine. The virus is highly contagious and dogs can spread it even before they are visibly ill.

Dogs infected with canine influenza can remain contagious for weeks, both before they seem ill and after they seem to have recovered. The fact that seemingly healthy dogs can be infectious prior to clinical illness and remain infectious for weeks after recovery means that if your dog ever goes places with other dogs (even to the vet), he could be at risk from dogs that look completely normal.

2. What puts my dog at risk?

A dog that is exposed to other dogs, like at dog parks, boarding environments, or grooming is at risk. The influenza virus is easily spread from dog to dog. Some believe that dog shows served as a source this time around because grooming equipment can be shared between dogs and judges handle dogs consecutively and unknowingly spread the virus. Your own dog could be exposed on a walk if a stranger pets her after petting another dog. Since we cannot see the virus, we just never know where it may be.

3. What happens if my dog catches it?

Dogs that are sick with canine influenza have fever, coughing, sneezing, and other respiratory signs. Most of the infected dogs had decreased appetite and some have even progressed to secondary pneumonias. A few dogs have died, but this is more common in dogs that have other ongoing issues, like Kennel Cough or preexisting disease. By and large, however, normal healthy dogs are able to survive the flu, but are noticeably ill for days to weeks.  It is inconvenient to isolate infected dogs from other healthy dogs also, but it is a necessary component of stopping the spread of canine influenza.

We hope that you and your dogs stay healthy and safe! 

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