Oklahoma Vet Warns Pet Owners About Spread Of Dog Flu

An Oklahoma vet is warning pet owners about the spread of canine influenza, commonly known as the dog flu.

Thursday, December 29th 2022, 6:26 pm

There's been recent outbreaks of canine influenza, known as the dog flu, that can impact pets. 

The virus has similar symptoms to the flu that humans can contract, but it's not transmissible between dogs and humans. 

There are two known strains in the United States, H3N8 and H3N2. Most unvaccinated dogs are susceptible to infection with both viruses.

Dr. Shara Carlton at the OKC Vet Campus said while they haven't seen any cases at her clinic, she does recommend the vaccine for any dogs that live a social lifestyle.

“If you're gonna protect your dog and it's gonna go out in the world and see its friends, then I would do the vaccination," Dr. Carlton said.

The vaccine is a two-shot dosage, with an annual booster. Dr. Carlton said it's a "lifestyle vaccine," so if a dog is typically at home and not around other dogs, she said they may not need the vaccination.

Canine influenza is most commonly spread through direct contact, either by coughing, sneezing or barking. 

“Dogs that are playing with each other at the dog park or they're at doggie daycare, or in boarding facility," Dr. Carlton said.

The virus can live on surfaces for up to 48 hours, so a dog can also contract canine influenza at the dog park, doggie daycare or boarding facilities, even without direct contact with an infected dog.

“So a dog can go to the dog park, bark all over everything, and then your dog comes and smells it, licks it, so now he has been exposed to those aerosol droplets without direct exposure," Dr. Carlton said.

While there's not a "dog flu season" like there is in the flu that human's contract, Dr. Carlton said that people can expect outbreaks associated with human lifestyle. 

She said more people board their dogs between November and January because of the holidays, along with April during spring break, and that can begin an outbreak. 

The virus usually presents as a cough, similar to kennel cough, but then worsens, and the dog may develop a runny nose, nasal discharge, sneezing and a fever.

“It is going to be a little bit more severe than your typical kennel cough," Dr. Carlton said.

Dr. Carlton said if a dog does present any symptoms, it's best to keep them isolated from other dogs for at least five to seven days and said symptoms will typically present in that time period.

“It's the same type of thing we did with Covid, we started washing our hands. We were very conscious of disease transmission so it's the same type of protection that we want to do for our pets making sure we don't expose animals that otherwise would not have.”

She said the best plan of action if someone is unsure of symptoms, or if a dog may have contracted canine influenza, is to bring them into the vet. 

She said it's important not to give a dog over-the-counter medicine such as cough syrup or a decongestant, without consulting a doctor, as those can be very dangerous for your pets.

“Don't start using over the counter medications without taking your dog to the vet because you can make some serious mistakes," Dr. Carlton said.

Treatment usually involves supportive care, which may include supplemental oxygen, fluids, bronchodilators, and/or antibiotics (if secondary bacterial infections are suspected in the patient).


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