Canine Influenza

Canine influenza, also known as the canine flu, is a disease that affects many dogs. More severe cases of the disease usually affect very old dogs and young puppies.

While there are many different strains of influenza, the disease strains can only affect a single species. For example, only dogs can get canine influenza, and only humans can get human influenza.

Canine Influenza Spread and Occurrence

Canine influenza is easily and quickly spread. The disease can be spread by dogs that are not even experiencing any symptoms. The disease will be shed by the dog and will be present in secretions from the dog, including saliva, nasal discharge and fecal and urinary matter.

The disease can also live outside the body. This means that dogs can get canine influenza from contaminated food bowls or water bowls, contaminated toys or contaminated bedding. In some cases, humans can carry the disease on their skin or clothing and can transfer it to their pet.

Canine influenza is widespread and somewhat common, especially in certain parts of the country and in dogs that live in close quarters, such as in kennels or animal shelters. Most dogs don’t have immunity to the disease and will become infected when exposed to it.

Canine Influenza vs. Parainfluenza

Many people confuse canine influenza with parainfluenza. The two diseases are similar, but parainfluenza is a disease of the upper respiratory system, typically recognized by the frequent sneezing it causes. Both diseases are very contagious.

While parainfluenza can be vaccinated against, there is currently no vaccine for canine influenza.

Symptoms of Canine Influenza

Canine influenza symptoms will vary depending on the particular dog, his age and the state of his immune system. The most common symptoms of canine influenza include:

  • coughing
  • fever
  • lethargy
  • nasal discharge.

Not all dogs with canine influenza will experience all of these symptoms. Additionally, left untreated, dogs may develop pneumonia from having canine influenza.

Symptoms of canine influenza generally last from two to four weeks. See your veterinarian as soon as possible if any canine influenza symptoms are present in your dog.

Canine Influenza Treatment Methods

Most often, canine influenza can be treated effectively with antibiotics and a little extra care. Humidifiers and keeping the dog comfortable can be helpful. Cool water baths may also be recommended for dogs with high fevers.

If the case of canine influenza is severe, hospital or veterinary stays may be necessary. However, this is not usually the case. Most canine influenza is mild. Only 5 percent to 8 percent of canine influenza cases will become severe enough to cause a dog’s death.

Prevention of Canine Influenza

Currently, there is no canine influenza vaccine. This means that preventing the disease can be difficult. Keeping your dog away from potentially infected animals is the only real prevention method.

Keep an eye on your dog’s behavior and activities. If his habits change or symptoms appear, see a veterinarian immediately, as early treatment for canine influenza is the most effective.