Six years ago, I lost my seven-year-old golden lab mix to the canine flu. It was a rare outbreak in our area, but she was unfortunately one of the first dogs to catch it, and we lost her within a month. There has been a vaccination for the canine influenza for a long time, but unless it was seen to be an issue in your area, your vet may not have suggested it for your pet.
“Canine Influenza, or dog flu, is caused by a Type A influenza virus. There are two different Type A influenzas that are known to infect dogs, H3N8 and H3N2. Both are extremely contagious viruses that affect the respiratory system primarily,” Dr. Carly Fox of the Animal Medical Center (AMC) in New York.
“Flu is spread through respiratory secretions, produced during sneezing and coughing,” says Dr. Fox. “Dogs are constantly sniffing each other and their environment, so infection is very common and the virus is highly contagious.”
When one dog gets the flu, it is highly likely that other dogs in its vicinity will also catch it. Fortunately, the mortality rate has decreased significantly, and is only around 10%. If you do see your pet exhibiting signs of the flu, such as loss of appetite, lethargy and respiratory struggles, quarantine the animal and take him to the vet as soon as possible.
It is unlikely that humans can pass this virus on to their pets, but if you or other people in your house have had the flu recently or are sick now, just be careful to monitor your pet for any symptoms.
I also advise that you talk to your vet about the dog flu vaccine. Not all pets are candidates, but it can be a good option when the next flu season rolls around. Pets are a big part of the family, so make sure you take care of your fur baby and yourself!