What is the Dog Flu and should you be worried?
The “dog flu” or canine influenza is going around in the Chicago area and of course spreading to nearby areas with a confirmed case in Madison, Wis.
My parents and their two dogs live in Wisconsin, so I’m curious if they should be concerned about the dog flu.
Most news stories are reporting there have been about 1,000 cases of dog flu in the Chicago area and 5 deaths.
OK, so is the dog flu anything to worry about?
My approach to nearly every health issue with dogs and people is to use common sense. Dog flu is nothing to freak out over, even though the media love to use hysteria and fear.
Do your own research on dog flu and talk with your dog’s vet if you have any concerns. To help get you started, I’ve done a little research myself …
What is the dog flu?
Canine influenza is a virus that primarily affects the dog’s respiratory system and is highly contagious, according to PetMD.
Some infected dogs with have mild symptoms while others will have more severe symptoms, but the most obvious symptom will be a “moist” cough.
General symptoms, according to PetMD, could include:
- general discomfort
The more severe symptoms could include a high fever and lead to pneumonia, according to PetMD.
My dog Ace was diagnosed with pneumonia in 2011. He was so sick we had to take him to the emergency clinic. No fun.
Are dog flu and kennel cough (bordetella) the same thing?
Dog flu is a virus.
Bordetella (kennel cough) is caused by the bacteria bordetella bronchiseptica.
However, a lot of dog owners, vets and others use “kennel cough” to group together flu viruses and bacterial infections.
For the sake of this post, when I say kennel cough, I am referring specifically to bordetella.
Symptoms of the dog flu and kennel cough can be very similar, however a dog with the flu is more likely to have a moist cough while a dog with kennel cough is likely to have a dry cough, according to PetMD.
Sometimes dogs infected with kennel cough also become infected with a flu virus, according to Veterinary Pet Insurance. This is another reason why they’re often grouped together under “kennel cough.”
Will the kennel cough (bordetella) vaccine protect my dog from the dog flu?
The reason for this is because the intranasal bordetella vaccine usually contains a strain of bordetella and a flu virus, according to VPI. Because of this, it will protect your dog from some strains of dog flu.
The vaccine is called the bordetella vaccine because bordetella is the most common cause of upper respiratory infections in dogs, according to VPI.
How is dog flu treated?
Most dogs should recover from the dog flu on their own as it runs its course.
Sometimes a vet will prescribe antibiotics if there is a bacterial infection or if bronchitis or pneumonia have developed, according to VPI.
Remember, antibiotics won’t do anything for a virus.
For most dogs, the best thing to do is provide them with rest and to keep them isolated from other dogs for a few weeks, if possible.
Common sense for preventing dog flu
I’m not worried about my dog getting sick from the dog flu or bordetella. If he does, he does. He’ll get better with rest.
There are always risks to consider anytime you bring your dog out in public. Dog parks, training facilities and pet friendly stores are obviously places where your dog is more likely to catch the dog flu or bordetella.
In places like Chicago where there has been an increase in dog flu cases, use your best judgement before visiting dog parks and pet friendly stores.
If I lived in Chicago, I would probably keep my dog out of dog parks for a few weeks, but I would continue our normal walks throughout the neighborhood.
If your dog is very old or has a weakened immune system for various reasons, you may want to be a little more cautious.
As for puppies, I believe it’s important to socialize, walk and train them even if there’s a small risk they’ll get sick. But, everyone has to make their own choices. (See my post Should I walk my puppy before she’s had her shots?)
Let me know what you think, especially if you live in Chicago or other areas of the Midwest.
Are you concerned about the dog flu?