Protect Your Dog from Highly Contagious Dog Flu: Health Risks and Precautions
Dog flu, or Canine Influenza Virus is a highly transmissible virus that was introduced to the United States in While it typically not can lead severe illness and even especially for dogs with compromised immune systems. With recent outbreaks in many states, it’s important for dog owners to understand the health risks and take precautions to protect their pets.
Health Risks of Dog Flu
CIV is a highly contagious respiratory disease that affects dogs of all breeds and ages.
The two strains of CIV, H3N8 and H3N2, are particularly potent and can cause severe health complications in dogs, particularly those with weakened immune systems, senior dogs, and puppies, reports Snodgrass Veterinary Medical Center. The two variants are highly contagious through airborne droplets and direct contact with infected dogs.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, the mortality rate of CIV is low, and most dogs recover with supportive care. However, dogs with severe symptoms or secondary bacterial infections may require hospitalization and intensive treatment, which can be costly and emotionally draining for pet owners.
Symptoms of dog flu include cough, runny nose, fever, lethargy, eye discharge, and reduced appetite. In severe cases, dogs may develop life-threatening pneumonia. While treatment consists of supportive care and antibiotics for secondary bacterial infections, prevention is key.
High-Risk Areas for Dog Flu
According to Auburn University, CIV is highly transmissible through aerosols and nose-to-nose contact. Outbreaks tend to occur sporadically and seasonally, especially in places like shelters, boarding facilities, and grooming parlors.
As DogFlu.com reports, dogs have no natural immunity to Dog Flu because it’s a newer virus, which is easily spread by dogs who move around a lot, like rescue dogs or ones that travel and move with their owners.
This winter, there has been a surge in cases, with outbreaks reported in multiple states, including California, Arizona, and Texas, resulting in some dogs becoming seriously ill or even dying, CBS News reports.
Outbreaks of dog flu tend to occur seasonally during the winter months, the Dallas Morning News reports. Dog owners should be especially cautious in areas with high dog populations and areas where there have been recent outbreaks of CIV. If traveling with your pet, be aware of CIV activity in the area and take appropriate precautions.
The AVMA recommends that dog owners stay informed about CIV activity in their areas, especially during flu season, which typically runs from November to April. Owners should also take extra precautions when visiting high-risk areas, such as boarding facilities, shelters, and dog shows. In addition, pet owners should be mindful of the age, breed, and health status of their pets, as these factors can affect their susceptibility to CIV infection.
For example, brachycephalic breeds such as pugs, bulldogs, and Boston terriers are more prone to respiratory infections, including CIV, due to their shortened airways. Older dogs, puppies, and those with weakened immune systems are also at higher risk of developing severe complications from CIV, reports the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University.
Vaccines for Dog Flu
There are a few vaccines that can treat both variants of CIV, but it’s not entirely clear how effective they are. Similar to human flu vaccines, studies have shown that these vaccines can reduce the severity of symptoms, PetMD reports. However, due to the sporadic nature of CIV outbreaks, it’s typically recommended that only dogs who are at high risk get vaccinated.
According to an RV Travel interview with Dr. Scott Weese, a veterinary internist specializing in infectious diseases:
“My main considerations are risk of exposure and risk of severe disease. Risk of exposure depends on whether the virus is in the area, how likely it is that it will be brought into the area (e.g., outbreaks nearby), how likely it is for the dog to be exposed somewhere else (e.g., the dog travels with its owner or goes to dog shows), how likely it is for the dog to be exposed to a high risk dog from somewhere else (e.g., contact with dogs imported from Asia, or dogs from other areas where flu is active) and how many dog contacts it has (the more contacts, the greater the risk, particularly if there are contacts with dogs of unknown health and travel status). Risk of severe disease is the other consideration, as described above. I’m quicker to recommend any respiratory disease vaccine in seniors, dogs with other illnesses and brachycephalic [dogs with short noses such as pugs].“
What to do if your Dog Gets Dog Flu
If your dog regularly visits different dog parks during travel, it may be at a higher risk of contracting CIV. However, if your dog is healthy and does not have any underlying health conditions, you may be able to skip the vaccine. It is always advisable to discuss your concerns with your veterinarian. But, if your dog is senior or has any immune system weaknesses, such as being on steroids for allergies, it is essential to speak with your vet about getting vaccinated. In any situation, it is recommended that you keep your dog’s Bordetella (kennel cough) vaccine up to date, Sunriver Veterinary Clinic reports.
Ways to Reduce the Spread of Dog Flu
There are several ways dog owners can reduce the spread of dog flu and protect their pets:
- Vaccinate your dog: There are several vaccines available to treat both variants of CIV. While their effectiveness is not guaranteed, studies have shown that they do reduce the severity of symptoms. Talk to your vet about whether vaccination is necessary for your dog based on their risk factors.
- Keep your dog current on Bordetella vaccine: Bordetella, also known as kennel cough, is another respiratory disease that can be prevented through vaccination.
- Avoid high-risk areas: Limit your dog’s exposure to high-risk areas, especially during outbreaks. Consider dog parks during off-peak hours and avoid contact with dogs of unknown health and travel status.
- Practice good hygiene: Wash your hands frequently, especially after contact with other dogs or high-risk areas. Consider using a disinfectant to clean your dog’s belongings and toys.
- Monitor your dog’s health: Keep a close eye on your dog’s health and contact your vet if they show any signs of illness. Isolate them from other dogs until they recover.
While the risk of dog flu may seem daunting, taking these simple steps can greatly reduce the risk of infection and protect your pet’s health. Share what you’ve learned with fellow pet owners and help reduce the impact of this disease. Click below to take the pledge to stop dog flu!