Tips for Spotting Canine Influenza and How to Treat it

As we head into flu season, it’s important to remember that dogs can get the flu just like people. Sound crazy? It shouldn’t. Animals are susceptible to seasonal illnesses as well. In fact, pets can sometimes catch our ailments, just like with COVID. So, how do you spot a cold in dogs? Simple: the same way you spot it in humans. They can present with the sniffles, a cough, lethargy, reduced appetite, eye discharge, and/or a fever.

Taken individually, these symptoms could point to any number of things. As a whole, however, there’s a good chance it’s canine influenza, which is highly contagious. It can also lead to pneumonia and even death in severe cases, so don’t blow it off if you suspect your pet may have it. A few years ago, Florida had a bad outbreak, and vets there saw many cases arrive at their clinics.

sick puppy
Photo: Pixabay/isakarakus

Spreading Canine Influenza

Canine Influenza can be spread not only through aerosols but across common surfaces, like leashes, harnesses, and collars. Coughing and sneezing are two of the main symptoms of dog flu. They’re also two of the primary forms of transmission. When taking your dog to a dog park, on play dates, to a groomer, or to a kennel, there’s an increased chance of them getting it. If you hear that there’s an outbreak in your area, it’s a good idea to hold off on socialization until it passes. Otherwise, you could be looking at a hefty vet bill. “It’s really important to know where it’s endemic,” veterinarian Lisa Lippman, Director of Virtual Medicine at New York City’s Bond Vet, explained to USA Today.

Treating Dog Flu

If your dog is eating well and otherwise acting pretty much themselves, then chances are it isn’t urgent. You should keep an eye on them, though, in case their symptoms escalate. You can treat them by bringing them into a bathroom and turning on the hot water in the shower to create a steam room or sauna-like atmosphere for a few minutes at a time, two to three times a day. This can help with their stuffy nose and breathing. “For any viral infection, we usually prescribe supportive care unless there’s evidence of a secondary bacterial infection,” Lippman outlined. Like most doctors, she doesn’t like to jump straight to antibiotics if there’s no need.

While Dr. Lippman assures pet owners that it’s never wrong to go to the vet if you’re concerned, it’s important to reiterate that canine influenza is highly contagious and that you might want to consider a telehealth appointment instead. If symptoms are severe enough that you feel they must be seen in person, notify your vet so that they can make arrangements for the visit. Taking the appropriate precautions on their end is vital for the health of their other patients.

Photo: Pixabay/Pexels

Canine Influenza Vaccine

Like humans, it can take a couple of weeks for dogs to fully recover from canine influenza. The good news is that there is a vaccination for the virus available from your veterinarian. Like all vaccines, it’s not 100 percent effective. Still, it can help reduce the chance of your pet contracting it and potentially limit the severity of the illness if they get it. Talk to your veterinarian about whether it’s suitable for your dog’s particular situation.

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