Until recently, it was thought that dogs didn't get the flu.
But in 2004, researchers looking at unexplained deaths of greyhounds at dog
racing tracks discovered a new influenza virus that can infect dogs. Since
then, the virus has been found in 30 states and Washington D.C., said Cynda
Crawford, an assistant professor of shelter medicine at the University of
Florida, who first found the flu virus. Now it's another thing dog owners need
to be aware of, she said.
Ever watched your dog roll on the ground, lick her coat or chew at a mat on her fur? These are her ways of keeping clean. Sometimes, though, she’ll need a little extra help from her friend to look her best.
WebMD went to the experts to get answers to some of the biggest questions
about dog flu.
1. What are the symptoms of dog flu?
Diagnosing dog flu can be difficult, Crawford said. That's because dog flu
symptoms - a low fever, persistent cough, runny nose, and just feeling blah -
are the same as some other common respiratory diseases. A test is needed to
confirm the diagnosis.
2. Can people catch the flu from their dog, and vice versa?
Although people and dogs can catch influenza viruses, they are susceptible
to different strains of the virus, Crawford said.
For that reason, people don't need to worry about catching the flu from
their dog, said Rubin Donis, PhD, chief of the molecular virology and vaccines
branch at the CDC.
"We're obviously keeping an eye on that, but so far we haven't seen any
evidence that people can contract the virus from their pets," Donis said.
But there has been some evidence that dogs might be able to catch the flu
from people, Donis said. But there's not enough data on the subject.
3. How serious is dog flu?
If your pet gets the flu, don't panic. The virus isn't highly dangerous,
said Edward Dubovi, PhD, director of the virology laboratory at Cornell
University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and the person who first isolated
the canine influenza virus from a sample sent to him by Crawford.
But just as with people, dog flu can lead to secondary infections that could
develop into life-threatening pneumonia. "The secondary bacterial infections
are where the real danger lies," Dubovi said. "But most dogs, with the proper
veterinary care, aren't impacted severely."
Experts estimate the fatality rate at 1% to 5%. Crawford said the real
problem is because dogs haven't been previously exposed to the virus, they have
no immunity. So nearly 100% of dogs exposed to dog flu catch it, and 80% will
show symptoms within four days, she said.