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Does my dog need a flu shot, too?

Did you know that dogs can also get their own version of the flu? Canine influenza (CI), or dog flu, is a highly contagious viral infection. It was discovered in Florida around 2004 among racing greyhounds, and since then two other strands of CI have been discovered (H3N8 and H3N2). However, there has been no evidence that dogs can spread the flu to their owners.

Just like flu that humans are used to, CI is spread through aerosol transmission such as sneezing, barking or coughing. Dogs in close contact with infected dogs in places such as kennels, groomers, day care facilities and shelters are at increased risk of infection. Canine influenza can be spread indirectly through objects such as kennels, food and water bowls, collars, and leashes. It can live on surfaces for up to 48 hours; infected dogs will show signs of infection within 2-3 days.

Like other mammalian influenza viruses, CI causes an acute respiratory infection in dogs. There is no “season” for CI, and infections can occur any time of the year. The infection often resembles canine infectious tracheobronchitis, also known as “kennel cough.”

The majority of infected dogs exhibit the mild form of canine influenza. The most common clinical sign is a cough that persists for 10-21 days despite treatment with antibiotics and cough suppressants. Affected dogs may have a soft, moist cough or a dry cough similar to that induced by kennel cough. Nasal and/or ocular discharge, sneezing, lethargy, and anorexia may also be observed.

It’s important to make an appointment with your veterinarian if you see signs any respiratory infection to get a diagnosis and treatment plan.

If you often take your dog to the groomers, day care, or a kennel while you travel, it might be a good idea to talk to your veterinarian about getting your dog vaccinated against canine influenza. The vaccine’s necessity for your dog is dependent on your dog’s lifestyle, including how much expose it has with other dogs and if it has a risk of developing kennel cough.

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