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?
High-risk areas for catching dog flu include boarding kennels, shelters,
doggie daycares, and dog parks. People who attend dog shows also have been on
high alert for the virus. Joy Dillon of Nashville, who breeds and shows
Chihuahuas, says that people in the dog show circuit are vigilant about keeping
sick animals out of shows.
"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,
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."