Just like humans, dog can also catch the flu – only they have their own version known as the Canine Influenza virus or the H3N8. It is a highly contagious respiratory infection that is usually acquired during exposure to an infected dog in highly populated areas such as kennels, shelters and even doggie day cares. In the United States, higher incidence has been seen in New York, New Jersey, Colorado, Pennsylvania and Texas and veterinarians advise pet owners to properly assess their surroundings to know whether canine influenza is prevalent in their areas.
The dog flu may be contagious but it is not a dangerous disease. It has a sporadic nature and eventually dies down. Most of the time, it is confused with the more common Kennel cough Syndrome (caused by Bordetella bronchiseptica bacteria) because they both exhibit signs of sneezing, coughing, watery eyes, runny nose, lethargy and inappetence. The virus is transmitted via aerosol and nasal discharges and the reason why this disease is common in densely populated areas. If your dog has exhibited coughing for more than 2 days, bring him to the vet as soon as possible for diagnosis and treatment. Dog flu virus does not have a drug that can kill the virus and treatment will involve supportive therapy that will help the dog’s immune system to get rid of the virus. This includes antibiotics, vitamins and appetite stimulants that will prevent complications of secondary bacterial infections. In some cases where pneumonia and fever are seen, the dog must be confined and treated under the veterinarian’s close supervision as these signs indicate deeper infection and would require a more serious treatment. For prevention, there is a H3N8 vaccine available and it is given twice several weeks apart. Consult with your veterinarian regarding the immunization protocol and availability of the vaccine. However, keep in mind that the vaccination is not 100% assurance that your dog will not contact the virus, this will only lower the probability of sickness since there are many strains and not all are in the vaccine. But if your vet recommends the vaccine, it is worth to give it a shot because remember that prevention is always better than cure