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Are Dogs Affected by Flu Season?

canine influenza 2 blogMany doctors encourage their patients to get flu shots to prepare for this time of year. Some owners might wonder if their dogs are also at risk.

First of all, there does not appear to be a seasonal trend in canine influenza like there is in humans. People tend to congregate indoors in the winter, facilitating the spread of airborne illnesses. If anything, dogs may congregate more in summer weather – while being boarded or playing at dog parks.

There is now a vaccine for canine influenza, but it is not among the recommended core vaccines. The vaccine tends to reduce the severity of symptoms, but not totally prevent the illness. Additionally, most dogs get a mild form of canine flu, so the mortality rate is low. Secondary bacterial infections leading to pneumonia can be more of a problem, but those cases are treated with fluids and antibiotics.  Fever and a yellow nasal discharge are signs that your dog should see a veterinarian. Very young dogs, senior dogs and dogs with chronic health problems are more susceptible to serious infections.

Other precautions for your dog, if an outbreak is noted in your area, include minimizing contact with unknown dogs. Schedule your grooming appointments early in the day and pick your dog up as soon as possible. Try to arrange for a pet sitter instead of boarding your dog. If you handle or are around other dogs, use hand sanitizer before you handle your own dog. Ask your veterinarian about the need for vaccination for your dog – the decision will depend on factors like your dog’s health and lifestyle.

If your dog is coughing, it could be caused by a number of different canine respiratory pathogens. Special diagnostic tests can be done to determine which respiratory infection your dog has. A dog with canine flu is generally free of the virus and no longer contagious by a week after the initial symptoms appear.

If you have any questions about canine influenza or the vaccine, speak with your veterinarian.

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