Canine Influenza: What’s All the Bark About? | Barton Heights Veterinary Hospital Blog

A dog wearing a maskOver the last six months or so, canine influenza has ripped across the nation without warning. Being a relatively new disease (in this form, at least), the media has latched on to it and pet owners everywhere are raising a fuss. So what’s one to think about this very contagious disease? Read on to learn what’s going on with canine influenza.

The Basics of Canine Influenza

This past April, veterinarians in the Chicago area started to report seeing an outbreak of kennel cough like none other. The typical upper respiratory symptoms normally caused by the Bordetella bacteria along with a few other bugs, however, typically looks a little different.

After some investigation, it was found that this strain of kennel cough was indeed being caused by a canine influenza. While the dog flu had been seen in 2004, this was shown to be a totally strain of canine influenza previously only seen in Asia.

Both strains of canine influenza can cause similar symptoms. Most times the dog flu is a mild to moderate upper respiratory infection. Affected dogs will exhibit:

  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Fever

A very small percentage of infected dogs will develop pneumonia secondary to the infection. This can result in serious disease, and a few pets across the country have died related to the disease.

While most dogs recover fully from the canine flu without complication, it is important to take steps to prevent your pup from contracting disease. No one likes to have the flu!

Protecting Your Pooch

When it comes to protecting your pet from the dog flu, prevention is the name of the game. Thankfully, you can do quite a few things to help protect your pet against canine influenza.

The dog flu is spread through close contact with infected respiratory secretions or items that have been in contact with those things. This means that any pet who is around other dogs could be at risk. Dog parks, groomers, and boarding kennels are all places where you need to be on high alert.

If you have a pet who might be at risk for contracting the dog flu, be sure to:

  • Vaccinate your dog – There is a vaccine against the dog flu that we can administer. While it may not totally prevent the disease, chances are that it will make things much less serious if your dog does become infected. Same goes for the kennel cough (Bordetella) vaccine and your dog’s distemper combination vaccine, which protects against other organisms commonly implicated in doggy respiratory infections.  Be sure that your pet’s vaccines have been boostered properly.
  • Practice common sense – If your pet has a weakened immune system, it may be best to steer clear of places where dogs congregate. This includes very old dogs, young puppies, or pets with other medical conditions that may weaken the immune system.
  • Use good hygiene – Wash your hands and don’t share dog toys, bowls, or anything else with dogs that you don’t know. Most infectious diseases are preventable with some hand washing.

If your pet is acting abnormally or seems to be ill, be sure to let us know right away. It is important for us to act early to help infected dogs get better.

When something like canine influenza ravages the nation, it can certainly be scary. There is no reason to fear, though. With a little knowledge and preparation, you can protect your pet. As always, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask. We are always happy to help you.