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Dogs and Flu: What You Need to Know

Experts answer 7 common questions about dog flu.

4. How likely is my dog to catch dog flu? continued...

"We're concerned, but we take precautions, and we have a great grapevine," Dillon said. "If someone's dog got sick at a show, everybody at that show would know before the next show."

Where you live also can have an impact. Crawford said that some areas, such as the east coast from Virginia to Connecticut, as well as southern Florida, the Denver area, and some parts of Texas, have had widespread outbreaks, and other areas have had none. "We also find it's more prevalent in major metro areas, but that's probably because there are higher concentrations of dogs in those areas," she said.

Crawford said they haven't found any patterns showing dogs of certain ages or breeds to be more susceptible to the virus. "Some dogs, like flat-faced dogs, are more at risk if they develop pneumonia, because they already have obstructed breathing passages, but they aren't more at risk of contracting the influenza virus," Crawford said.

Researchers also haven't found a seasonal element to the disease. So instead of cases increasing during the fall and winter, it seems to occur year-round, she said.

5. How is dog flu treated?

Treatment for dog flu is very similar to that for people. Because antibiotics don't work on a virus, the usual advice is lots of rest and fluids. But antibiotics could be prescribed for secondary infections, Dubovi said.

6. Should my dog get the dog flu vaccine?

A dog flu vaccine, approved in the spring of 2009, is now available at veterinary offices. Dubovi said the vaccine won't prevent a dog from getting the virus, but it will lessen the severity and the duration of the disease. Whether or not to vaccinate is a personal choice, he said. "If I lived in New York City and I was getting ready to board my pet for the holidays, I'd definitely get the vaccine," Dubovi said. "But if I lived in Minneapolis, where there's never been a diagnosed case, I probably wouldn't use it."

Crawford said the vaccine consists of two shots, given three weeks apart. The shots contain the killed virus and help dogs build immunity to the virus. She said so far dogs don't seem to have adverse reactions to the vaccine.

For most dogs, the flu is little more than an inconvenience, Crawford said. "People really don't need to be freaked out about it. The public just needs to be aware that dogs can get the flu, too," Crawford said. "But it's very much like the flu people get. People just need to talk to their vet about their risk and whether their pet needs a vaccination."

7. Can dogs get swine flu?

Dubovi said there's no evidence that dogs get swine flu, or the H1N1 virus. But some dogs have contracted avian flu, and some cases have been fatal, he said.

Reviewed on October 02, 2009

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