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A canine flu outbreak has hit the US—here’s how to protect your pet

David J Morgan/flickr under CC-BY-SA
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

That sneezing dog won’t pass on the flu to you, but it will to other dogs. According to Cornell University’s veterinary school, a canine flu outbreak began in the country in April. For now at least, it’s mostly confined to the Chicago area, where 238 dogs had tested positive (pdf) by May 6:

Cornell University
Testing of canine flu cases across the US from March 13 to May 6, 2015.

However, the flu is spreading slowly to other states. Cases have been reported in Alabama, California, Texas, Massachusetts, New York, Wisconsin, Michigan, New Jersey, Iowa and Indiana. Georgia was the latest state, a week ago, to raise an alarm about the presence of canine flu.

What is canine flu?

The strain of virus that is spreading is H3N2, which is a bird flu virus that has adapted to infect dogs. It was first detected in South Korea in 2007, according to the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and affected both cats and dogs in China and Thailand before coming to the US in April 2015.

Much of what you know about human flu is true for canine flu. It manifests in the form of a cough, runny nose, sneezing, and fever. It can range from no symptoms to severe infection resulting in pneumonia. It’s spread by coughing and sneezing.

What do I do to protect my pet?

The CDC says: Keep away from infectious zones such as parks. Because dogs have not been exposed to the virus before, they are bound to fall prey to it if exposed. There is currently no vaccine or treatment for this strain. Your vet may prescribe medicine to increase the dog’s immunity, and recommend fluids to avoid dehydration.

If your dog does get the flu, disinfect things it touches that might be touched by other dogs. There’s only a very small chance of the flu being fatal, and an early appointment with a vet should minimize that risk. It’s also important to monitor the dog for any secondary infection that may attack when immunity falls. Infections such as pneumonia can be dealt with using antibiotics.

Other than that give your pet some extra love, and he or she should be back to normal soon.

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