You read that right. Your dog most certainly can get the flu. Here at the time of year when medical types wax about the benefits of people preparing for the flu season, it makes sense to state the facts about canine influenza.
For starters, canine influenza, or dog flu, is not the same virus that makes people sick. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), canine influenza (A H3N8) has been reported in horses for more than 40 years. To throw the medical parlance around, the virus “jumped species” from horses to dogs some ten years ago and has been spreading between dogs since then.
“Canine influenza will present like most other respiratory infections which makes it difficult to diagnose early,” says Dr. Tom Watson, from Carolinas Veterinary Medical Hospital.
The bad news, is that dogs don’t have any natural immunity to canine influenza, and Dr. Watson says about 8% to 10% of dogs who get sick will die. The CDC adds that although this is a relatively new cause of disease in dogs and nearly all dogs are susceptible to infection, about 80 percent of infected dogs will only have a mild form of the disease.
But don’t fret. The same sort of preventative measures we use to protect people from the flu also apply to dogs. And, yes, that includes a flu vaccination. Dr. Watson recommends the flu vaccination for all dogs, but especially those who go to “doggy daycare”, are boarded, or frequent dog parks.
As we enter the flu season, keep an eye on your dog’s health for signs of upper respiratory infection, like cough, runny nose or fever. Keep your dog away from other dogs who show signs of infection, and keep your hands and their toys, bedding, etc., clean – particularly after exposure to dogs you know or may suspect to be sick.