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Just like their two-legged owners, dogs can come down with a serious case of the sniffles. And just like in people, canine flu is highly contagious – infecting about 80% of all dogs who come into contact with it, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.
Several states including Arkansas, Florida, and the Carolinas are currently reporting a number of cases of canine influenza – but don’t worry, the virus isn’t new, it’s rarely deadly, and it can’t spread to people.
If you suspect your dog may be sick, veterinarians say the best course of action is to give your pooch lots of water and ensure they have time to rest. In severe cases, a vet may prescribe medications to reduce swelling linked with the virus. Here’s what you need to know about canine influenza.
Where did dog flu come from?
There are two strains of canine flu – the most common, H3N2, has been circulating in the US for a couple of years. A rarer and more severe form of the virus, H3N8, was first observed among a group of racing greyhounds at a track in Florida in 2004.
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The first recognized US outbreak of H3N2 dog flu occurred in Chicago in 2015 and spread to several other Midwestern states. At least a dozen dogs were infected with that strain last month, according to the University of Florida’s College of Veterinary Medicine, which released a statement at the end of May.
While veterinarians don’t know precisely what caused this particular cluster, outbreaks are generally more common in in situations where dogs are kept in close quarters, such as in shelters or boarding facilities, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.
When to see the vet
Just like in people, the most common symptoms of flu in pups include sneezing, nasal discharge, and frequent coughing. These signs can linger for a few days or last as long as a week. In some rare situations, the virus can be fatal, but this usually only occurs in severe cases or as a result of another infection that develops later on.
“If your dog exhibits any of these symptoms, please call your pet’s veterinarian before taking your pet in for treatment,” advises the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine.
Keep in mind that if your dog is sick, he or she could still be contagious even after the symptoms disappear. If your pooch gets the flu, the American Veterinary Medical Association suggests staying away from other pups for at least three weeks.