Dr. Arielle Pechette hears from concerned dog owners every day. They're looking to keep their pets away from the new strain of flu first found in Chicago that's quickly spread to 30 states around the country. So far this new strain has not been reported in Florida, but with traveling this summer, pet owners need to be careful.
"The best preventative is complete avoidance of other dogs because the unfortunate thing about this particular virus is it's most contagious before they actually start showing clinical signs. So they're most contagious that two-to- four-day window before they start coughing, before their nose starts running," said Pechette.
Coughing, sneezing, fever and loss of appetite are the main symptoms of this highly contagious virus. Puppies and dogs with compromised immune systems are most susceptible.
"While humans can't get the dog flu, they still can be a carrier of the dog flu and pass it from dog to dog. So, if you're around multiple dogs, be sure you're washing your hands, or even changing your clothes before interacting with each dog," said Angie Hicks, founder of Angie's List.
Because infected dogs may not be showing symptoms, there's no way to guarantee the virus won't reach your doggie day care or favorite boarding facility.
"If you are going to be boarding your dog this summer, be sure to discuss their protocol for how they would handle if the flu did arrive at the kennel, and if they don't have a good protocol, or they just kind of shrug it off, choose another kennel," said Hicks.
"The good news is that most of the cases are mild. They say that almost every dog that comes in contact with it will get infected. Of those, only 80% will show clinical signs. So some dogs will get it and not even cough," added Pechette.
Keep a close eye out for symptoms in your dog this summer. If they appear, keep your dog away from others for at least two to three weeks until the virus has run its course. If you're taking a vacation and just can't bring your dog along, Hicks suggests using a pet sitter as an extra precaution.
Symptoms of new Canine Influenza (H3N2):
- Faster breathing
- Loss of appetite
What to do if flu is suspected:
- Contact veterinarian
- Isolate dog from other dogs
- Keep dog well hydrated
- Wash hands after petting or playing with dog
Other Dog Flu Facts:
- Can take up to 10 days before symptoms develop
- Virus typically lasts 2-3 weeks
- Humans cannot contract the virus, but may pass it to other dogs
- Puppies, older dogs and dogs on regular medicine are more susceptible
- No vaccine for H3N2 currently available