What happens to dogs who are sick with the flu?
The infection rate is high, but (depending on which report you read) 20-50% of dogs will simply make antibodies and clear the infection without any signs of illness at all. The other 50-80% will show symptoms of the flu. They will have fevers, listlessness, coughing, and a snotty nose. Most dogs will recover with supportive treatment (antibiotics, perhaps nebulization/humidification, etc.).
A small percentage of dogs will get pneumonia. These dogs are at risk of death, and thus, support must be more aggressive such as hospitalization, intravenous fluid therapy, etc. Most of these dogs will recover as long as they receive proper care. The mortality (death) rate is 5 to 8 percent. The incubation period is two to five days, and the course of infection lasts two to four weeks.
Because this is an emerging disease, few dogs will have immunity to it unless they have received one of the new vaccines. This means that any dog unvaccinated for influenza is a candidate for infection.
- The point is not to ignore a coughing dog.
- Do not allow your dog to socialize with coughing dogs. If your dog develops a cough, see your veterinarian.
- If your dog develops a snotty nose, listlessness, and cough, do not be surprised if your veterinarian wants to look at chest radiographs and considers hospitalization.
How is the disease transmitted?
Dogs that are infected will shed the virus in bodily secretions whether or not they appear to be sick. Virus transmission can occur from direct contact with an infected dog or with its secretions. Kennel workers have been known to bring the virus home accidentally to their own pets. The virus can live on toys, bowls, collars, leashes, etc., for several days. Infected animals should be considered contagious for 14 days.
We highly recommend vaccinating your dog against the flu.
Please contact us to schedule an appointment for your dog’s flu shot. If they have never had the flu shot, they will need an initial vaccine, followed by a booster two to three weeks later.
Where can I find more information on the canine influenza virus?
More information on canine influenza in dogs can be found in this article:
Influenza A Virus (H3N8) in Dogs with Respiratory Disease, Florida in Emerging Infectious Diseases journal
In addition, the following websites may provide additional information: