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do you know what to do if your dog has the flu
Photo: kaelin

Did you know that dogs can get the flu? Yes, just like us there is a strain of influenza that affects canines. Last year, the contagious virus spread so quickly in the Chicago area that some shelters and rescue organizations were forced to close in order to stop the sickness from spreading. Now, a new strain of canine influenza has been documented in the western part of the country.

Recently, a dog in Montana tested positive for this new strain. The Washington state health department is also warning dog owners after an incident of possible exposure at a kenneling facility in the Seattle area. Public health officials are saying that as many as 90 dogs may have been exposed to canine influenza while staying at the kennel.

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Two of these dogs have already tested positive for the flu, but it’s unclear at this time if it is the new strain. The disease is not often fatal, but you should make an appointment with your veterinarian immediately if you notice some of the most common symptoms in your dog. These symptoms can include:

  • No interest in food or water
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Nasal discharge
  • Lethargy
  • Fever
  • Vomiting
do you know what to do if your dog has the flu
Photo: Matt Wharton

I know, it sounds similar to the symptoms of human influenza. The diseases are actually very similar, aside from the species that they infect of course. Pet parents need to be very careful about their dogs’ exposure to the disease, especially this time of year. Just like the human flu, canine influenza is extremely contagious.

If you’re in an area that has seen cases of the virus, you should consider keeping your pet home for the time being. Doggy daycares, dog parks and other areas where numerous dogs often mingle together should be a concern. These areas are the breeding grounds for contagious diseases.

On Tuesday, January 12th, Helena Veterinary Service reported that they had confirmed a case of the newest strain of canine influenza, H3N2. It was confirmed with laboratory testing and treated at their office. Most veterinarians recommend that owners have their dogs vaccinated against the disease, but the vaccine is not required.

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Researchers believe that the germs for this strain live quite a bit longer in the environment and can travel on shoes and clothing. This means that if your dog is diagnosed with the disease he will have to be isolated from other dogs for a longer period of time, which could cause a real issue if you have a multi-dog household.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), H3N2 has been identified in 40 states. They say that more than 2,000 cases have been identified in the last year. Once you notice symptoms it is important to get your pet to the vet immediately. They can treat the symptoms and provide your dog with some relief. Most dogs will make a full recovery in two to three weeks.

Canine influenza can be mild with slight symptoms that go away on their own or they can be more serious, resulting in pneumonia or worse. Of course, there is no guarantee that the disease will not be fatal, so it’s better to have your dog examined and treated than to take the risk. The vaccination for the disease entails an initial shot and then a booster shot three weeks later.