Dog Flu

How real is the threat?

Canine Influenza, or dog flu, is a new respiratory disease that is infecting dogs in the U.S. It was first identified in January, 2004 in racing Greyhounds in Florida. Since then it has spread across country infecting many dogs including show dogs and family pets.

Dog flu is caused by a canine influenza virus. Dogs become infected by breathing in the aerosolized virus coughed up by another dog or by contact with inanimate objects which have been contaminated by oral or nasal secretions from infected dogs. People can also carry the virus on their hands and spread it from dog to dog. The virus does not live well outside of the dog and can be destroyed by most common disinfectants.

If your dog is exposed to the canine influenza virus, he or she will likely become infected. Most dogs have a mild disease that may look a lot like “kennel cough”. They can have a low grade fever, nasal discharge and a persistent cough that may last for 10 – 21 days. Some dogs will develop a more severe form of the disease with high fever and signs of pneumonia and they will usually require antibiotics and might even need to be hospitalized.

How can you prevent your dog from being infected? The easiest way is eliminate exposure to other dogs. In many cases that precaution is just not possible. If your dog is going to be exposed to other dogs, use disinfectants to clean cages, food and water bowls and other inanimate objects. If you are working with or touching other dogs, wash your hands frequently and ask others to do the same before touching your dog. Coughing dogs or those who have been exposed to coughing dogs should be isolated so they don’t bring home canine influenza viruses to any other dogs in your home. The incubation period for this disease is two to five days.

At this time, there is no easy, rapid test for diagnosis and there is also no vaccine available to protect your dog from canine influenza. While “kennel cough” vaccines are not effective in protecting against dog flu, if your dog is going to be exposed to other dogs and at risk for canine influenza, then he or she is also at risk for kennel cough and should be vaccinated against it.

We all hear about avian influenza and the risk that it may pose to people, so can canine influenza infect us? The risk of this virus infecting people is really low according to the Centers for Disease Control. However, health officials will continue to monitor this disease, just to be sure.

So how real is the threat to your dog? For most family pets that stay at home, the risk is very low. Exposure to other dog’s increases that risk; so boarding, grooming, showing or even playing in the park can increase the possibility for infection. But given the fact that the disease is fairly mild in most dogs, even if your dog does become infected, the threat of serious disease is still very low.

The materials, information and answers provided through this website are not intended to replace the medical advice or services of a qualified veterinarian or other pet health care professional. Consult your own veterinarian for answers to specific medical questions, including diagnosis, treatment, therapy or medical attention.

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