You may have heard recent reports about a new virus infecting and even killing dogs. Doctors at the University of Florida believe that a strain of equine influenza recently mutated to a strain that can infect dogs.
The strain seems to have started in racing dogs in Florida. It is spreading rapidly throughout the nation. Various reports have stated that dogs have “no immunity” to this virus. Because it is a new virus, this is technically true. However, “no immunity” does not mean that a healthy dog cannot fight the virus. It simply means that most dogs exposed to the virus will get sick, fight it off, and then develop immunity.
The CDC reports a 5% to 8% fatality rate connected with the new canine influenza virus. This is considered low. The dogs affected most by the virus already had a reduced health status due to age or disease and many did not seek veterinary care in a timely fashion.
The virus incubates for 2 to 5 days – meaning it spreads in the body before causing symptoms. The infection lasts 2 to 4 weeks. Infected dogs will shed the virus through body secretions, even if they do not show symptoms. Dogs do not need to have direct contact with each other to spread the virus. Saliva or mucus left on a surface can spread the virus to the next dog passing by. While there is no evidence that the canine influenza virus can affect humans, humans can carry the virus from one dog to another. If you have been in contact with a sick dog, wash your hands and consider changing clothes before coming into contact with another dog.
A dog’s experience of canine influenza is much like the human flu experience. They have fever, listlessness, coughing, a snotty nose and body aches. A small percentage of dogs develop pneumonia.
For now, the best advice is to not ignore a coughing dog. If your dog develops a cough, make an appointment at Healing Springs Animal Hospital. Depending on your dog’s particular situation, various supportive therapies can help your dog fight off the infection. Keep your dog well vaccinated. There is not currently a vaccine for canine influenza. However, infected dogs become more susceptible to other diseases. Vaccination helps dogs fight off these other diseases while they are compromised by the canine flu. Do not allow your dog to socialize with coughing dogs. Keep your dog well nourished with a quality dog food and reduce your dog’s exposure to extreme cold.