Federal health experts say the worst of the country’s nastiest flu season in nearly 10 years is pretty much over.
But while many of us were following doctors orders on how to avoid influenza, many pet owners might not have realized that their canine friends have their own version of the flu, which is almost as bad.
And veterinarians across Florida have been seeing an increasing number of cases in recent months.
Once dogs catch it, the viral disease makes them feel just as lousy as when humans get the flu. "They become lethargic. They have quite a distinct temperature rise," says Dr. Colin Parrish, a virologist with the Baker Institute for Animal Health at Cornell University. But a continual cough that lasts for a long period of time is probably the clearest sign your dog has the flu.
The viral infection is most commonly spread when infected dogs cough and sneeze anyplace where other dogs are in close quarters, like kennels, dog parks, doggie daycare centers and grooming parlors.
For all the similarities between the human and canine influenzas, dogs rarely die from the disease. And humans can't catch the strain from their dogs. But there is evidence that the H3N2 strain can be passed to domestic cats.
If you suspect your dog has the flu, experts say you should visit your veterinarian, who may suggest you quarantine the sick dog from anywhere between five days and three weeks, depending on the severity of the infection.
As with the human flu, there's a vaccine available for canine influenza.
To learn more about the dog flu, please visit the website for the Baker Institute for Animal Health.