With a recent outbreak in Michigan, it’s super important to know how canine influenza — or doggy flu — could affect your pup.
Canine flu is a contagious viral infection affecting dogs and sometimes even cats, meaning it can be transmitted between dog to dog or even dog to cat. There have never been cases or evidence to prove that canine flu can infect humans.
Canine flu viruses are spread through saliva, during coughing, barking, and sneezing. Dogs in close contact with infected dogs, such as in kennels, groomers, or daycares, are at increased risk for infection. The virus can be spread indirectly through objects such as water and food bowls, toys, beds, leashes, etc. –anything an infected dog can slobber on. People that have been in contact with infected dogs can also spread the virus to other dogs as well, so it’s important to wash your hands and change your clothes frequently if handling a dog that you know has the virus. Regularly cleaning and disinfecting all objects that sick dogs have used is very important if you know other dogs (or cats) will be in the area at all.
The canine flu virus can remain viable on surfaces for 48 hours, on clothing for 24 hours, and on our hands for 12 hours. The virus has an incubation period of one to five days, meaning most exposed dogs don’t show any signs of symptoms for two to three days afterwards. Infected dogs may start showing symptoms such as coughing and wheezing, similar to Kennel Cough, while some dogs may not show any signs of illness and will simply shed the virus. Most dogs showing symptoms will have a cough for about 10-21 days despite treatment with antibiotics. Other symptoms may include nasal discharge, sneezing, fever, and lethargy, so infected dogs should be observed closely.
Pretty much all dogs that come in contact with the canine flu will get it, and 80% of them will show symptoms. The other 20% of dogs will still be contagious, despite lacking symptoms. There is no canine flu season like there is for humans, so any dog can catch it at any time.
Canine flu must be diagnosed by a veterinarian to make sure that it isn’t confused for just a cough, and tests will be run to make the correct diagnosis. Most of the time, dogs will recover in 2-3 weeks with good nutrition and fluids. If there are other underlying factors such as pregnancy or other diseases alongside the flu, antibiotics may be prescribed. Infected dogs should be household isolated for four weeks in order to not spread the virus further.
As always, don’t hesitate to reach out to your local pet store if you have questions on this or any pet related topic.