By Dr. Jeff Werber
Dog flu or Canine Influenza is a contagious respiratory disease in dogs caused by a specific Type A influenza virus (H3N8). The “canine influenza virus” was originally an equine (horse) influenza virus that spread to dogs in 2004 and can now spread between dogs.
Is there a risk to humans?
To date, there is no evidence of transmission of canine influenza virus from dogs to humans. However, the CDC explains that influenza viruses are “constantly changing and it is possible for a virus to change so that it could infect humans and spread easily between humans. Such a virus could represent a pandemic influenza threat. For this reason, CDC and its partners are monitoring the H3N8 influenza virus (as well as other animal influenza viruses) very closely. In general, however, canine influenza viruses are considered to pose a low threat to humans.”
How to Treat Dogs with the Flu
About 80% of the dogs with the flu will have a mild form of the disease characterized by cough, nasal discharge and fever that will resolve over time with appropriate therapy. A small proportion of dogs can develop severe disease which can ultimately result in death. These dogs experience complications such as pneumonia, just like the humans infected with influenza.
How does dog flu spread?
Canine influenza virus can be spread to other dogs by direct contact with aerosolized respiratory secretions from infected dogs, by uninfected dogs coming into contact with contaminated objects, and by moving contaminated objects or materials between infected and uninfected dogs. Therefore, dog owners whose dogs are coughing or showing other signs of respiratory disease should not expose other dogs to the virus. Clothing, equipment, surfaces, and hands should be cleaned and disinfected after exposure to dogs showing signs of respiratory disease. Some dogs are asymptomatic (show no signs of the disease) so it may difficult to take precautions.
There is an approved vaccine for canine influenza and your dog can be tested for the disease if symptoms are present. Treatment largely consists of supportive care. This helps the dog mount an immune response. In the milder form of the disease, this care may include medication to make your dog more comfortable and fluids to ensure that your dog remains well-hydrated. Not only is it essential for people to take full preventative measures to fight the spread of the disease, we must also take charge of the health of our furry friends who can catch a dangerous respiratory disease called Canine Influenza Virus (H3N8) or more commonly called “Dog Flu”.
– Dr. Jeff Werber has dedicated his life to the care and protection of animals. A renowned veterinarian and pet parenting specialist, Dr. Jeff maintains that pets are more than just companions; they are part of the family and deserve to be treated that way. A top graduate of the University of California Davis Veterinary School, Dr. Jeff established his Los Angeles-based private clinic, Century Veterinary Group, in 1988. Dr. Jeff cares for the pets of Hollywood’s biggest stars, including Britney Spears, Julia Roberts, Ben Affleck, Eddie Murphy, Paula Abdul, Rod Stewart, Mark Wahlberg, Patrick Dempsey, Mandy Moore, Jennifer Love Hewittand many more – along with those of everyday pet owners. Dr. Jeff has translated a childhood love of pets into a career committed to raising and shaping national awareness of the importance of high quality pet care. To learn more about Dr. Jeff, visit drjeff.com.