Dogs of all breeds and ages can get it. There’s a new virus spreading across the US, and dogs have no natural immunity to it. That means that all unexposed dogs will become infected upon contact with the canine influenza virus. You may even have heard stories about the sudden outbreaks of dog flu that have occurred in communities just like yours. Is your dog at risk?
It’s highly contagious, and social dogs are most at risk. If your dog is boarded, goes to doggie daycare, or enters other group dog environments, your dog is at higher risk for getting the flu. The virus spreads rapidly through sneezing, coughing, and through contaminated clothing and objects such as food bowls. One sick dog can quickly turn into many sick dogs.
Dogs develop a bad cough and other respiratory signs. The signs of dog flu are similar to those of any respiratory infection in dogs—cough, runny nose, sneezing, watery eyes, and loss of appetite and energy. However, in canine flu, the cough can persist for several weeks and develop into a more severe infection, leading to pneumonia in some cases.
Most dogs recover, but it can be fatal. While dog flu is usually mild, severe respiratory infections and pneumonia are very serious complications that can become fatal. There is no way to predict which dogs will have mild disease and which dogs will have severe disease.
Fortunately, a vaccine is available. The best way to treat dog flu is to prevent it. Like human flu shots, the vaccine for dog flu cannot completely prevent the illness. But vaccination will make getting the flu less likely and will likely make the cough and other signs of flu milder in dogs that do become infected. By vaccinating your dog against canine flu, you can help protect it from serious disease and prevent the spread of the disease to other dogs in your community.
Ask your veterinarian if canine influenza vaccination is right for your dog.