Did you know that over 48 million US households have one or more dogs? For the vast majority of these households, their dogs are part of their family. They get fed high-quality dog food, get to explore giant yards, and some even go to daycare when pet parents are at work!
With dedication like this, it's only natural that seeing our pups under the weather is distressing. If your dog is displaying symptoms common in humans as signs of the flu, you might be wondering, "can dogs get the flu?" Read on to find out!
Can Dogs Get the Flu?
The answer to this question is a bit more complicated than you'd think. If you're wondering whether your cuddle session with Fido while you were working the flu out of your system can cause him to get sick, too, then you can relax. Humans cannot pass along a cold or flu to their beloved pets.
That doesn't mean that dogs cannot get the flu, however. Dogs have their own version of the flu called canine influenza. Canine influenza is similar to cases of the flu that humans contract. If you haven't heard of it before, that's because it's a relatively recent development.
The American Veterinary Medical Association notes that the first cases of the highly infectious canine influenza virus, H3N8, were reported in 2004 and have continued since that time. In 2015, a new strain of canine influenza, H3N2, was reported in Chicago. Like human influenza strains, canine influenza will likely continue to evolve over time.
Symptoms of canine influenza are similar to those that humans experience. Look out for a cough that lasts from 10 to 30 days, fever, and sneezing. You may even notice some discharge from your dog's eyes and nose.
If you're concerned that your dog might have canine influenza, you should contact your veterinarian for treatment options. Be careful about taking your sick dog out in public spaces because canine influenza is highly contagious. If you want to be proactive about keeping your dog healthy, talk to your vet about canine flu vaccines for both the H3N8 and H3N2 strains.
Can I Catch Something from My Dog?
We know that dogs cannot catch a cold or the flu from their human friends, but can we catch something from them? The good news is that you cannot catch the canine influenza virus from your dog. The bad news is that there are several other things that you can catch from your dog if you're not careful.
Diseases that transfer from animals to humans are known as zoonotic diseases. These diseases include salmonellosis, leptospirosis, campylobacter infection, giardia, and cryptosporidium infection. You can also contract parasites like ringworm, roundworms, scabies, and hookworms from your dog.
Thankfully, the chances of you actually catching a disease from your pet are pretty low. However, people who are pregnant or who have compromised immune systems should take extra precautions because they're more susceptible to these diseases. The best way to make sure you and your pup stay healthy is regular checkups at the vet!
What about COVID-19?
There's a lot of concern out there about the possible transmission of COVID-19 from humans to dogs and from dogs to humans. COVID-19 is a new virus and scientists are still learning about who can catch it and how it can be transmitted. Early research indicates that dogs may become infected with COVID-19, but there have been no cases of dogs (or cats) transmitting SARS-CoV-2 to humans.
Be careful, however, if you have cats in your household because research has demonstrated that humans can transmit it to cats and cats can transmit it to other cats. Keep an eye out for more research on transmission as scientists continue to learn more about the virus.
Other Illnesses to Watch Out For
You know about canine influenza and know your pups are safe from COVID-19, but there are some other common diseases that you need to watch out for in your dog that may be confused with canine influenza.
Kennel cough, also known as Bordetella, is a very common disease found in dogs, particularly in dogs who have recently been boarded or held in a shelter. It's caused by a bacterium but is frequently accompanied by a virus, like a parainfluenza virus or canine herpes virus that makes it easier for dogs to contract Bordetella.
Common symptoms include a persistent, strong cough that sounds like a goose when it honks. It is significantly more forceful than cough-like sound dogs may make when they're reverse sneezing. Your dog may also begin sneezing, have a runny nose, or have discharge from their eyes.
Kennel cough is contagious and is most commonly spread from nose-to-nose contact.
Parvovirus is perhaps one of the most dangerous diseases for young dogs to contract. You may initially confuse it with a run of the mill stomach bug, but it's important to get your dog to the vet as soon as you notice any signs of parvo.
Symptoms include severe diarrhea, lethargy, vomiting, and fever. Notify your vet right away if you notice these symptoms in your puppy and make sure to inform them that you suspect parvovirus so they can make sure your dog doesn't make other animals in the clinic sick.
Parvovirus is incredibly contagious, and all your puppy has to do to catch it is to sniff or lick a surface that an infected dog has contaminated. It's most common in puppies who have not completed their full set of vaccinations, which is why you should limit your puppy's interaction with public spaces until he is fully vaccinated.
Many dogs don't show symptoms when they're in the early stages of the disease, but as it advances, you'll notice a mild cough, fatigue, reduced appetite, and weight loss. Late stages of heartworm cause heart and lung failure due to reduced blood flow to the heart.
The best way to avoid heartworm is to prevent it from happening altogether! Give your dogs a heartworm preventative once a month and have them tested every year.
How Do I Keep My Dog Healthy?
Learning about things like canine influenza and other diseases that impact your pup's quality of life can be scary, and you may be wondering what you can do to keep your dog happy and healthy. With a little bit of work on your end, your dog can live their best life for a long time. Just follow these tips!
Good health begins with your dog's diet. If you're currently buying your dog food at a big box store, you might be keeping your dog full, but he may not be getting the optimal levels of nutrition. A healthy, balanced diet with the right amount of fats and carbohydrates will go a long way!
Avoid cheap fillers like animal meals and byproducts. Instead, look for whole, sustainable ingredients with over 30% protein.
Get Plenty of Exercise
Just like humans, all dogs need to exercise to stay healthy and happy! Wondering how much exercise is enough? The amount of exercise your dog needs each day will depend on its breed and age.
Working dogs like labs, German Shorthaired Pointers, and Australian Shepherds need a ton of exercise to stay healthy and to stem destructive behavior like chewing up your favorite pair of shoes. Toy breeds and brachycephalic dogs tend to need lower levels of exercise, but be sure to get them out for a walk on a regular basis, too!
Puppies are full of energy, but because they're still growing, it's important to limit the amount of exercise they receive in a day to five minutes per month of age. That means puppies who are two months old get ten minutes of exercise and ten-month-old puppies can get up to fifty minutes of exercise.
Keep an Eye Out
Finally, one of the best ways to keep your dog healthy is to keep a watchful eye on your pup. Make sure he isn't eating anything he shouldn't be eating or sniffing other dogs' poop.
If you want to be extra careful to avoid diseases spread by nose-to-nose contact, you can limit your dog's close contact with dogs with whom you are not familiar. If you're not comfortable with another dog owner approaching your dog for a visit, don't be afraid to stand your ground and politely tell them that you would rather your dogs not meet.
Paws Up for Good Health!
Can dogs get the flu? Canine influenza is a risk that comes with dog ownership, as well as other diseases like kennel cough and parvovirus. Fortunately, we have safe and effective vaccinations to prevent any pup from suffering these serious, and even life-threatening, infections that once killed innumerable dogs. Thankfully, you don't have to worry about your furry family member coming down with the flu because you had it first.
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