Dog Owners Guide To Canine Influenza

Canine influenza comes in two forms – one that is classed as ‘mild’ and the other that is considered ‘severe’. After initially being seen only in racing Greyhounds the infection soon started to spread and can now be seen in all breeds. It is thought that the virus spread from a separate species i.e. horses. Although it is unusual for viruses to adapt (or mutate) so that they are able to affect and cause symptoms in a separate species it is possible and this is what experts think may have happened with the canine influenza virus.

With the mild form of the condition the affected dog may have a cough that lasts up to a month. The sound of the cough is slightly different to the sound associated with a dog experiencing a bout of kennel cough (for example kennel cough causes a dry cough and with the influenza virus the cough is slightly moister and less harsh).

If your dog has developed the severe form of the flu virus then it can be a very serious and possibly life threatening condition especially if the affected dog is also experiencing Pneumonia. The affected dog is likely to also have a high temperature and experience breathing difficulties. If the dog has developed a high temperature it can reach levels as high as 104 degrees Fahrenheit.

Due to the influenza virus being a relatively new phenomenon (it is estimated to have been discovered as recently as 2004) dogs are highly susceptible to catching the infection (in fact it is estimated that out of 100 dogs that come into contact with the virus 80 dogs will become infected). Fortunately, out of the dogs that do develop the condition most only develop the less serious form. If your dog does develop influenza and subsequently develops pneumonia then this is very serious – experts have estimated that out of 100 dogs that do develop pneumonia secondary to the virus 5-8 dogs out of 100 will die.

Dog Flu in a nutshell

Doggie flu will only affect dogs and is not seen in humans. The condition is actually caused by the H398 virus and is different to the flu virus seen in humans (which is caused by H1N1,H1N2 and H3N2 subtypes). Although the condition can become very serious, the normal symptoms are a runny nose, cough and a fever.

Although the virus can be serious Some dogs will not exhibit any symptoms at all. The possibility of the illness being fatal is extremely small.

How Do Dogs Become Infected With Canine Influenza?

It is important to mention that dogs that are in close proximity are more likely to become infected – so owners do need to consider this when they put their dog in kennels. Although the flu virus is normally spread via bodily secretions the virus can also survive on any object around the House and this includes clothes and bedding. So if you have had a dog that has had the virus and you are thinking of bringing another dog into the property you need to make sure that everything is thoroughly disinfected and cleaned.

It is very important that if you think your dog has become infected with the flu virus then you should contact your vet and make sure that your pooch is kept isolated so that no other dogs can become infected.

How Is Canine Influenza Diagnosed?

Diagnosis for canine influenza may involve a serology test (this is when a blood serum test is examined to determine if there are any anti-bodies in the serum that are specific to the canine influenza virus). The vet may also perform other diagnostic tests including a virus antigen detection (this undertaken through immunoassays). Other methods of diagnosis can include attempting to isolate the virus and the vet undertaking a PCR analysis (PCR refers to a polymerase chain reaction).

Treatment For Dogs With Influenza

Treatment for this condition will depend on how far advanced it has become i.e. is a secondary infection causing more problems (this can sometimes be more easily diagnosed through the physical symptoms i.e. is there a very high fever, temperature and is there any thick nasal discharge).

To help prevent canine influenza there is now a vaccine (Nobivac® Canine Flu H3N8) that has been registered and fully licensed with the USDA. However, if the dog has not had this vaccine and has become infected then the vet will try and treat the symptoms that are being exhibited i.e. if the dog has become dehydrated then fluids will need to be provided – if the dog has developed Pneumonia then the affected dog may need (IV) intravenous fluids. Other methods to treat the condition may include antibiotics being prescribed including Doxycycline and Amoxicillin.

A Holistic Approach To Treating Dog Flu

We have listed a variety of natural remedies for treating flu in dogs…

Vitamin C – There is some evidence to suggest that dogs that have low Vitamin C levels are significantly more prone to developing the illness.

If your dog’s immune system is weak then this increases the chance of a dog being unable to fight infection. There are a variety of herbs such as Cats Claw, echinacea and astragalus that can be beneficial in improving a dogs immune system.

Elderberry – This herb is a great natural treatment for dogs that have developed respiratory infections. It can also be effective in treating dogs with Constipation and fever.

Some experts recommend a variety of antioxidants to reduce the chances of your dog from developing flu including green tea, vitamin E or Coenzyme Q10. Speak to your vet about any of these supplements.

Essential oils – can also be a great way to alleviate any chesty coughs and to also relax your dog. Try using an essential oil burner and add either eucalyptus, lavender or tea tree oil to a small amount of water under the burner (each of these oils have antibacterial and antiviral properties). If your dog is anxious or appears worried or stressed you can add chamomile oil to the oil burner as this will help to relax your dog.

Please do not give your dog any of the above supplements without speaking to your vet first.

Home Treatment For A Dog With The Flu

Once you have been to the vet and your dog has been diagnosed as having flu you then need to make sure your best friend’s life at home is as easy and comfortable as you can possibly make it. You can do this by…

1. Make sure that your dog always has access to fresh water. Keep tabs on how much your pooch is drinking.

2. Avoid taking your dog for long walks. Try and imagine how you feel when you have flu. If you do walk your dog try not to walk him in really cold weather as this may be more irritable to your dogs chesty cough.

3. Try and keep your dog’s life stress free. If a dog is stressed this can lead to the immune system being less effective and can increase the chances of a dog being susceptible to flu or other infections.

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