Shelter Your Dog from the Flu: Warning Signs, Treatment and Prevention Tips

With widespread flu outbreaks this year, it is important we not forget that our dogs can catch a similar virus just as easy as humans can. Dr. Laura Weis (co-owner of Holiday House Pet Resort) and Dr. Paul Schifano (owner of Petropolis) give helpful tips on managing the growing epidemic of canine influenza.

In 2004, the first diagnosis of canine influenza appeared. Since then, it has become highly contagious and even fatal for dogs. Its fancy name is H3N2, and 80% of dogs exposed to it end up catching it. So take note of who your dog is hanging out with and the environments they spend the most time in.

Symptoms typically appear within two or three days after exposure and “are contagious for up to 30 days once they start showing symptoms,” according to Dr. Schifano.

Dr. Weis explains that “dogs in the early stages of canine influenza may show no symptoms other than nasal discharge, and sometimes they may have less energy.” As the sickness progresses, symptoms may include include sneezing, dry coughing (resembling a kennel cough), a loss of appetite or difficulty breathing. Take your dog to the vet as soon as you notice any signs.

With these symptoms, your vet might diagnose your little friend with the flu. Don’t worry, H3N2 is treatable and should go away within two or three weeks. Until then, the best thing you can do for your dog is take good care of him.

Less than 10% of H3N2 cases lead to fatality, but when it does it’s usually from dehydration, so make sure your dog is drinks plenty of water. Keep his food and water area tidy, give him a comfortable sleeping space and keep him away from other dogs. There’s only one thing worse than having a sick dog, and it’s having two.

There are easy steps you can take to make sure your dog stays healthy and flu-free this year.

The best way to prevent your dog from catching the flu is to avoid it. Dr. Weis states, “social dogs that attend daycare or a dog park are at greatest risk of exposure.” However, if you need to leave your dog somewhere, a pet resort is the safest option.

Pet resorts are often more informed on how to deal with doggie sickness. For example, trained staff at Holiday House Pet Resort “perform daily wellness checks of each guest,” as well as “advanced diagnostic testing on any dog showing signs of sickness.” They also have “strict cleaning procedures in place for the comfort and safety of any guest and employee.” These protocols have been designed by the veterinarians living on site to prevent the spread of canine influenza in their own facility.

Another prevention method is to get your dog vaccinated. In fact, both Holiday House Pet Resort and Petropolis Pet Resort require all dogs to get the H3N2 shot before their visit. Dr. Weis states that “as with humans, vaccination may not guarantee full immunity, but it does provide protection and decreases viral shedding.”

Finally, keep yourself dog flu-free. While humans can’t catch canine influenza, it can be transferred through you or your clothing, living for up to 48 hours after you come in contact with an infected dog, so it is possible that you bring the virus home without even realizing it. Dr. Paul Schifano, veterinarian and owner of Petropolis, recommends washing clothes on hot with bleach and detergent to prevent this virus from reaching your dog.

No one wants to see their dog sick. By recognizing the symptoms, treating it correctly, and working to prevent it, you can protect your dog from the canine influenza. As a dog owner, take the proper precautions to keep your furry friend happy, healthy and dog flu-free.