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Saturday, March 23 , 2019, 6:51 am | Fair 50º


Dr. Bonnie Franklin: How to Keep Your Dog Flu-Free, Or to Treat It If Ill

Canine influenza is the dog flu. This flu is caused by a virus that can affect dogs of any breed or age. Dogs that are under a year-old or older than 7 years tend to get a more severe form of the virus.

Dog flu causes symptoms similar to what humans have when we get the flu. This dog flu is not transmitted from dogs to people or vice versa, however. Dogs’ symptoms are a respiratory infection with a cough, fever, runny nose, fatigue, eye discharge, loss of appetite and achiness. Even with treatment a dog may cough for 10 to 21 days.

Dog flu can result in pneumonia and sometimes death.

The flu is spread from dog to dog in the air by barking, coughing and sneezing, or by contamination from infected dogs on objects such as dog food bowls, leashes, water bowls, collars, dog crates, kennels, dog beds, toys or on peoples’ clothing.

Your cat cannot contract canine influenza, in case you were wondering.

If your dog has symptoms of canine influenza, keep it away from other dogs, such as at dog parks, walks on the beach, doggy day-care facilities, groomers, overnight boarding, training classes, neighbors’ dogs and play dates.

The virus spreads quickly from dog to dog, especially in indoor areas with less ventilation, such as a boarding facility.

The American Kennel Club recommends that all dogs to be vaccinated. If your dog has been exposed, the AKC recommends not entering your dog in a dog show for 30 days.

One problem with dog flu is that people may not know if their dog was exposed. Some 80 percent of all dogs that are exposed to the virus will contract it. Dogs that have influenza or that have been exposed to influenza should be isolated for four weeks.

It is a good idea to wash your contaminated clothing and hands before petting another dog. Food and water bowls should be made of stainless steel instead of plastic because scratched plastic is hard to fully disinfect.

The influenza virus is a hardy virus and can stay alive for up to two days on floors, cages or other hard surfaces, and on hands and clothes for up to 24 hours.

Your veterinarian can test your dog for the flu and treat it. If the flu is a milder form, your veterinarian will give your dog supportive care. In more severe cases, your dog may need medications to make it feel less achy, fluids for dehydration, possibly antibiotics for secondary bacterial respiratory infections and even hospitalization. So if your dog has a cough or any of these symptoms, it is best to see your veterinarian right away.

The good news is that there is a vaccine that covers both strains of the canine influenza (H3N8 and H3N2). These are the strains that can make your dog very sick. Your dog gets one vaccine and it is repeated in two to four weeks. Dogs as young as 8 weeks can be vaccinated.

Some infected dogs may not show any symptoms but can still be contagious to other dogs. Dogs are most contagious for two to four days when the virus is incubating. During this time, a dog may shed the virus in its nasal secretions but it may not have any symptoms.

The H3N8 virus can be shed for four to 10 days after the dog shows symptoms, and the H3N2 virus occasionally can remain contagious for up to 30 days after the dog has symptoms. Most dogs recover within two to three weeks but this can be a fatal virus.

This virus has been reported in Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, Pismo Beach, San Luis Obispo and Atascadero, with an outbreak in Fresno and more than 275 documented cases in the Bay Area. These are cases that the owner had their dogs tested for the virus through a laboratory test at their veterinarian hospital.

These cases do not include dogs that went to their veterinarians for treatment of flu symptoms without being tested, or dogs that never went to the veterinarian when ill. So there are many more cases of canine influenza out there, and it is spreading throughout California.

Act now to protect your pal from this virus.

Dr. Bonnie Franklin is a veterinarian who grew up in Santa Barbara and owns Your Pals Pet Hospital in Goleta. She earned her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from a joint program of Washington State University and Oregon State University, a master’s degree in wildlife biology from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, and does consulting work with the U.S. Forest Service. Click here to contact her, and click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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