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Canine Influenza aka Dog Flu

Canine Influenza aka Dog Flu

Our dogs are our best friends. We give them warm beds to lay in (ours or theirs), we provide them with the exercise their bodies deserve, and just like their owner’s, dogs can also get sick. One disease that is becoming more prevalent in our dogs is Canine Influenza, or “dog flu”. Indeed, dogs can catch their own version of influenza, but what exactly is dog flu?

What is Dog Flu?

Canine influenza is an extremely contagious viral infection that primarily affects dogs and on a few occasions cats. Like the human flu, the canine version passes through small drops of secretions from the respiratory system that come from barking, coughing, and sneezing.

An infected dog can transmit the virus to other dogs in such places like groomers, kennels, and doggy daycare facilities. They contract it through objects like water and food bowls, dispensary’s, doggy beds, kennels, leashes, and collars. For the most part, it sounds somewhat similar to how humans would transmit it to one another.

Influenza can mutate with ease, and those new mutated strains are what infects other species. At some point, the new influenza strain can transfer from one infected dog to another.

How widespread is the virus?

Dog flu currently affects some dogs that live in the United States. These dogs are mostly strays or rescues. There is often a higher number of these cases because rescue/stray dogs don’t always receive regular vet care and vaccinations. Dog flu was first identified in 2004 in Florida and was found in racing greyhounds. Further, scientists have hypothesized that dogs initially became infected from a horse that had influenza.

Canine influenza pugSince 2004, canine influenza has also been found in dogs in the DC and Chicago areas. In 2017, several dogs in Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, Texas, Louisiana, and Missouri have been diagnosed with dog flu.

Is there a vaccine?

As of right now, there are two strains of dog flu in the United States: H3N2 and H3N8. When humans receive a flu shot, there are flu strains in the vaccination. This same concept applies to the vaccines for dog flu. Recently, vaccinations have been created to help slow down the transmission of canine flu in animal shelters and kennels, and stop the possible transmission to people. The canine influenza vaccination comes from a live flu virus strain that is weaker in strength, so the dog does not get the flu but can develop and build up immunity to the virus.

Finding the vaccination has become a top priority as dogs have the potential to become “mixing vessels” of influenza if they get the flu on several occasions. This mixing pot can create new flu strains that could potentially harm humans. Currently, there are no cases that involve dog flu transmitting to humans.

Don’t wait to take your dog to the veterinarian if they are experiencing coughing, wheezing, sneezing, won’t eat, have low energy, and seem very lethargic. There is now a vaccination that cures what ails our beloved furry friends. If you have questions about this or other vaccines for your dog, contact us today.