Will Your Dog Need A Flu Shot This Fall?

Posted on: 9 July 2016

During the hot days of summer, it is often hard to imagine that flu season is just around the corner, but, unfortunately, it is. While you are scheduling an annual flu shot for you and your family, you may also want to contact your vet and schedule one for your family's dog. This is because your pet is also at risk of catching the flu. Although this is a different strain than those that can affect your human family members, it can make your pet sick and, in rare cases, it can be deadly.

What Is Canine Influenza?

Canine influenza, or dog flu, is a contagious respiratory condition caused by specific influenza viruses that are specifically affecting dogs. There are two different influenza viruses that can cause dog flu. They are:

  • H3N8 
  • H3N2 

Where Did Dog Flu Come From?

The H3N8 virus was originally found in horses but was discovered to have spread to dogs in 2004. Although it poses no risk to the human members of your family, the virus is now able to be spread from dog to dog. Dogs who are in kennels and shelters are especially at risk.

Just like H3N8 began in horses, H3N2 is thought to have started as an avian or bird flu virus, which has adapted to now affect dogs. First discovered in China, Thailand, and South Korea, it was found in the United States in 2015 and have been found in cats as well as dogs. Although named the same, it is genetically different than the H3N2 that affects humans.

What Are The Symptoms Of Dog Flu? 

If your pet is affected by either strain of dog flu, they may or may not exhibit symptoms. Those that do may display some of the following:

  • Nagging moist cough
  • Dry unproductive cough
  • Sneezing
  • Nasal discharge
  • Eye discharge
  • Fever
  • Lack of appetite and/or energy

In severe cases, your dog may develop hemorrhagic pneumonia and begin to cough up blood. This is commonly confused with kennel cough, and proper diagnosis can only be made after your veterinarian has taken blood samples to check for antibodies.

How Can It Be Treated?

As the old saying goes, "prevention is worth a pound of cure." Having your pet vaccinated against the dog flu is one of the best ways to help to ensure that they do not contract the disease from some other dog that they come in contact with. This is especially a good idea if there is an epidemic in your area, or your dog comes in contact with a lot of different dogs through their lifestyle or activities. Some of these may include:

  • Dog shows
  • Boarding
  • Doggy daycare
  • Regular grooming visits and more

If your dog becomes ill, visit your veterinarian and follow the treatment plan they create. This may include antibiotics, oxygen therapy, fluids, and other types of supportive therapy. The treatment plan will depend on your dog's conditions, as well as any other medical complications they may have. Make sure your pet stays isolated from any other dog for two weeks following a positive diagnosis to prevent the spread of the disease. 

If you're interested in learning more about vaccinations for your dog, consider contacting a veterinarian like those at Basking Ridge Animal Hospital.