(Welcome to the weekly pet column of Pet Connection Programs Inc. of Marilla, N.Y. A new article is posted each week, so be sure to check back on a regular basis!)
Did you know that humans are not the only ones who can catch the flu? Unfortunately for man’s best friend, dogs are also susceptible to their own version of it.
Dog flu is a year-round illness that can easily spread from dog to dog, but isn’t contagious to humans. Spring is a great time for pet parents to talk to their veterinarians about vaccinating their dogs against dog flu, either for the first time or for revaccination, because warmer weather means more time spent outside socializing with other dogs — and more social time can increase a dog’s chance of getting sick.
“Dog flu is highly contagious and we’ve seen thousands of cases being reported over the last year,” says Kathryn Primm, DVM, co-author of the Pet Parent’s Guide to Infectious Disease of Dogs. “The good news is that it’s also vaccine preventable. Dogs can be protected against both strains of dog flu with a single vaccine.”
To help pet parents across the country, here are answers to some common questions pet parents have about dog flu.
What exactly is dog flu? There are two strains of the canine influenza virus — H3N2 and H3N8. H3N2 is relatively new and is responsible for most of the recent cases. Common symptoms of dog flu include high fever, lethargy, loss of appetite, cough, runny nose and, in some cases, pneumonia — which can be life-threatening.
How do dogs get dog flu? Dog flu is highly contagious and can pass between dogs through virus particles in the air, physical contact with other dogs, indirect contact with an infected dog or contact with a person who has interacted with an infected dog. Since dogs have no natural immunity against dog flu, almost all unvaccinated dogs that come in contact with the virus will become sick.
Are certain groups of dogs more susceptible to dog flu? Pups that travel with their families or are frequently in contact with other dogs at places like dog parks, doggie daycare, grooming facilities and boarding kennels are at increased risk and should be vaccinated against both strains of dog flu.
Why should I get my dog vaccinated now? Dog flu is not seasonal, it is year-round; but because dogs tend to be more social in the spring in many parts of the country, they are more likely to encounter a contagious dog. Plus, with summer approaching, dogs that will be boarded should finish the dog flu vaccination at least two weeks before the planned date of boarding. Dogs vaccinated for the first time need two vaccinations, two to four weeks apart. Annual revaccination just requires one vaccination.
Can dogs transmit the flu to humans? No. To date, there is no evidence that humans can catch canine influenza virus from dogs.
Can I vaccinate my dog against both strains? According to the American Animal Hospital Association, dogs at risk, such as those that are boarded at kennels, attend doggie day care or visit dog parks, should be vaccinated against both strains of dog flu, available in a single vaccine. Dogs should be vaccinated on an annual basis to prevent illness or decrease the severity of symptoms if they do become sick. To find a vet that carries the dog flu vaccination, you can visit dogflu.com and search by your zip code.
How long has this vaccine been available? Bivalent vaccines, which are vaccines that contain both strains of dog flu, were introduced to the market in 2016 and 2017. Millions of dogs have been vaccinated against dog flu.
Spring weather is exciting for both pet parents and their dogs — it means it’s time to get outside and play. Avoid the risk of dog flu by talking to a veterinarian about vaccination and visiting dogflu.com to find a veterinarian and schedule an appointment for a dog flu vaccination for your pet.
(For more information on pets and animal adoption, please visit www.petconnectionprogramsinc.com. Or, visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/PetConnectionProgramsinc. Located in Marilla, N.Y., Pet Connection Programs Inc. is a nonprofit maternity and special care shelter founded in 1984.)