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Dog Flu Hits Again – Here’s How to Keep Yours Safe

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The strain of canine influenza that swept the US last spring is infecting dogs once again.  H3N2’s recent arrival in the country from Asia means American dogs have no immunity to it, and though most will be able to fight it off, the virus can be deadly for some.

It has already infected dogs from Washington to Florida to Maine, and is most likely to be contracted by dogs in shelters and those who spend a lot of time in kennels, daycares, grooming facilities, and dog parks.

Symptoms include a fever, cough, runny nose, lethargy, and loss of appetite.  Some dogs can develop more serious symptoms and even succumb to the illness, but about 80 percent of dogs infected will only have a mild form.

“Every dog that coughs doesn’t have canine influenza, but dogs with canine influenza cough,” Arkansas veterinarian Jon Remer told 5 News. “They will have a bronchitis, they’ll have nasal discharge, they’ll have ocular discharge.”

The strain is highly contagious and can be spread by coming into direct contact with respiratory emissions.  People who have touched sick dogs can spread the virus to other dogs.

“The virus can live a couple of days without any problem whatsoever on a hard surface,” Remer explained. “It can live on your hands for about 12 hours.”

Healthy dogs may become infected by coming into contact with contaminated food/water dishes, toys, beds, etc.  All of these things should be thoroughly washed, and a person should make sure to wash hands and change clothes before touching a healthy dog or their things if they believe they have been in contact with a sick dog.

Veterinarians can test dogs for the flu and can administer a vaccine to help prevent them from catching it.  In severe cases, lack of treatment can lead to pneumonia and death.  However, vets aren’t positive that the vaccine, designed to fight the newer H3N2 strain, will work on the H3N8 strain, which still circulates.

If your dog shows flu-like symptoms, contact your veterinarian and make sure your dog gets plenty of fluids and rest in a comfortable place.  Humans and cats are not known to contract the virus, but a sick dog must be kept away from other dogs to prevent transmission.

“It’s really no different if you’re talking about dogs or toddlers, if you think they’re sick, don’t bring them to daycare,” said Keith Poulsen of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Veterinary Medicine.

If your dog shows symptoms of flu, contact your veterinarian and make sure your dog gets plenty of fluids and rests in a comfortable place.  Humans and cats are not known to contract the virus, but a sick dog must be kept away from other dogs to prevent transmission.

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