Canine Influenza – What It Is, Symptoms and Treatments

The influenza virus is a major concern among mammals, including humans, wildlife and domestic animals. The virus constantly changes and at this moment in time it is impossible to cure, the body will rid itself of the virus on its own. Until 2004, dogs were thought to be exempt from the flu until a new canine influenza virus infected some racing greyhounds in Florida. In 2005, the virus spread to several boarding facilities infecting domesticated dogs. Although it is unlikely that your dog will ever become infected with the canine influenza virus, it is still important to be aware of it just in case.

The influenza virus spreads through bodily secretions whether the dog appears sick or not; it is important to note that dogs cannot get the flu from humans, and humans cannot get the flu from dogs. Some dogs’ immune systems are healthy enough so that their body will clear the virus on its own without showing any symptoms.

If your dog is one that does exhibit symptoms, some of the common ones will include:

• Fever

• Listlessness

• Coughing

• Snotty nose

Canine influenza can be treated with a veterinarian’s assistance and if the dog is overall healthy, he will most likely recover well. There are several ways vets go about treating canine influenza. Fevers are treated with medications or cool water baths. There are medications that are used for human influenza that can benefit dogs if the influenza is noticed early on. And what did your mother say… an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure? You can work to prevent an illness by enhancing your dog’s immune system with vitamins, proper diet and exercise.

A small percentage of dogs infected by the flu may get pneumonia. This is dangerous and puts them at risk for death. But if the virus is caught early enough and proper treatment is administered, recovery is possible. If a dog gets pneumonia, treatment may include antibiotics, nebulization and possibly humidification.

Any dog unvaccinated for the infection is at risk for developing canine influenza. If your dog is not vaccinated, keep your eyes and ears open for signs of the flu. Never ignore a coughing dog and do not allow your dog to socialize with coughing dogs. If you notice any of the symptoms that were listed above, it is best to take your dog to the veterinarian immediately.

Vaccinations for kennel cough or Para influenza will not protect against canine influenza. There are two separate vaccines for the flu. Dogs that board frequently, attend group training classes or events with other dogs, play regularly at the dog park or doggie daycare, or who go to the groomer consistently are recommended to get the vaccine. If you’re concerned about your dog being at risk for canine influenza, talk to your veterinarian about your dog’s options.