17 Feb My dog is coughing, can dogs get the flu?
The recent dog influenza epidemic has dog owners concerned everywhere. A chat with a vet will tell you what signs to look out for and any next steps.
According to recent reports, dog influenza is spreading in the US. Experts have confirmed the flu is real, but there’s no need to panic, not all dogs need a vaccine. We spoke to veterinarian, Dr. Shawna Garner, on signs to look for and how to keep your dog safe.
Chat with a Vet – Signs to look out for
- Cough – Coughs from influenza form in the lower areas of the body. Just like bronchitis or whopping cough for children, sick dogs have a dry, hacking cough. Because the cough resides in their tissue, it brings up fluid and you’ll hear your pet make a lot of the gurgling sounds.
- Fever – Dogs are generally warm, so it may be hard for to realize when your pet is running a fever. By feeling your dog’s ears or the bottom of their paws you may notice that they are warm regardless they are not running a fever. A dog’s normal body temperature is 100.5 F, and if they’re stressed or anxious it can go up to 103 F. Taking a rectal temperature is the best way to know if your dog has a fever. Check out this Ask.Vet video of how to take your pet’s temperature
- Depression – You may be able to tell if your pet has caught a virus when their behavior changes. They may become more lethargic and seem depressed, not really wanting to do anything. You may notice them seeking your attention more than usual. If it’s not normal for them to be lying around and looking tired, then they might have caught something.
- Discharge – Sometimes with influenza you may see some nasal discharge. It doesn’t happen all the time because most nasal and or eye discharges are coming from the upper airways, while the flu affects the lower airway in the lungs. Because of this you may see them cough up a little bit of watery discharge. Otherwise, this fluid will just stay in the lungs.
- Loss of appetite – An indicator that your dog may be sick is a loss of appetite. If he or she is turning their nose from food or specific treats they normally love, it’s a major sign that something is wrong. Dogs love their food and treats. If they’re suddenly not attracted to them it’s definitely cause for alarm.
Chat with a Vet – Precautionary steps you can take
Because influenza is a virus, it can be easily caught from other infected dogs via direct dog-to-dog contact. To keep your pet from getting sick, avoid areas and situations that may be overpopulated with other sick dogs. If you hear that there are recent outbreaks, it’s better to avoid places like dog parks, kennels, shelters, boarding facilities, grooming salons and other populated dog areas.
The influenza virus can also be transmitted by air, particularly via coughing and sneezing. Simply breathing the same exhaled air after an infected dog has barked in your pet’s vicinity can cause the virus to spread. If there is a local outbreak or your dog is sick, avoid parks and keep your dog away from other dogs.
Another way to lessen the chances of the virus spreading to your dog is by keeping the areas they frequent as clean as possible. Infected dogs that are coughing and sneezing may spread the virus via their mucus. If your dog sniffs a surface that may have become exposed or contaminated, they can inhale the virus. Extra attention to cleaning when your dog is sick will decrease the potential for contamination.
If you have questions about dog flu, wonder if your dog is at risk or if the vaccination is needed/appropriate for your dog, have a conversation with a veterinarian. Veterinarians do advocate for this vaccine in areas deemed an “epidemic outbreak”. They will help you decide the best way to protect your best friend!