According to recent reports, cases of canine flu have been found in at least 15 states across the U.S., with the highest number of documented cases in New York, New Jersey, and Florida. Canine flu is highly contagious and almost all of the dogs that are subjected to it will become infected.
Just as the flu virus in humans is spread from person to person, the canine flu can spread from dog to dog by air in boarding kennels, animal shelters, at dog shows, in dog parks and wherever dogs congregate. It is also present in respiratory secretions, meaning that dogs do not need to have direct physical contact with each other to pass it along.
If you notice a combination of any of the following signs or symptoms in your dog, call your veterinarian to make an appointment, as early symptoms can actually be mistaken for kennel cough.
- persistent cough
- runny nose
- low or high fever
- loss of energy
- loss of appetite
If your dog was healthy to begin with, statistics show that the infection will be relatively mild. However if your dog is a puppy, a senior, frail, or already has a weakened immune system, they are at a greater risk for becoming seriously ill with secondary bacterial infections or pneumonia.
If your dog is diagnosed with canine flu, he will most likely be treated with antibiotics and sent home with you. Depending on the severity of the infection, hospitalization may be necessary, but only your veterinarian can determine that. Presence of the flu virus in dogs can be only be confirmed through blood tests that are sent to a testing facility.
If your dog is going to be around other dogs, it is in their best interest not to share food or water bowls, or each other’s toys. Take extra precautions with a new puppy or if your dog is very old or has other high risk factors. Also be extra careful around the holidays when the number of people who board their dogs is significantly increased.