Can My Dog Get the Flu?
When we're sick, we look to our dogs offer us snuggles, cuddles and comfort. We tend not to think of pets as being susceptible to the same kinds of germs that make us ill and feverish. But in late December, newspapers reported a New York dog that had caught the H1N1 virus after his owner had come down with the terrible flu. The dog, a 13-year-old mixed breed from Westchester County has reportedly made a full recovery. But should you worry about petting your pooch when you're under the weather?
A dog owner can avoid infecting their pet in the same ways they avoid affecting other people, says Dr. Erin Newport, Veterinary and Professional Education Manager for the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA). Since the transmission is the same as any other respiratory virus, the germ is spread when the sick individual coughs or sneezes. You should cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing and wash your hands frequently before handling your pet. If you are sick already, keep a good distance from healthy pets just as you would from healthy family members.
If your dog has become infected with the H1N1 virus, he will show the same signs as any other respiratory illness, says Newport. Symptoms could include such as coughing, sneezing, lethargy, possible fever and in severe cases, difficulty breathing. If your dog shows any of these symptoms, the owner should have the pet seen by their veterinarian.
Canine Influenza More of a Risk
It is important to note that dogs have their own flu, commonly known as canine influenza or H3N8. This bug can passed between dogs and cause sniffling, coughing and fever, according to the Centers for Disease Control. This flu strain has never been passed from dog to human so you shouldn't worry about catching canine influenza when handling your sick pet.
Dogs rarely die from H3N8 but if you're nervous about your pup's condition, call your vet. Your dog should be isolated from other pets and have little contact with family members while they are sick. Pet owners should take their dog to the veterinarian if they show any signs of a respiratory condition, says Newport.
There is a vaccine for H3N8, so ask your vet if it's right for your pet. It's important to note that the vaccine won't completely prevent the canine flu but it will lessen the symptoms and help your dog make a quicker recovery.
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