If this season's "particularly deadly" flu virus has you playing nurse at home, you might have to add one more patient to your list: your pup. Apparently, dogs can get the flu too, and though humans can't catch it from them, it's highly contagious among dogs. This year, vets across the country are reporting cases of canine influenza, so here's what you need to know to keep your pup happy and healthy this flu season.
What is dog flu?
Canine influenza — otherwise known as dog flu — is a respiratory disease caused by the H3N8 virus. Originally, H3N8 was known as equine influenza, but around 2004, it made the jump from horses to dogs — greyhounds to be exact. The virus has mutated and adapted to the point where it is easily spread between dogs, especially those kept in kennels or shelters, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)](https://www.cdc.gov/flu/canineflu/keyfacts.htm).
Dog flu is transmitted by "aerosolized respiratory secretions" as the CDC puts it, which basically just means coughing and sneezing. When an infected dog at the dog park sneezes or coughs near your pet, your poor pooch can pick up the virus.
What are common dog flu symptoms?
Though you won't have to worry about catching the flu from your furry friends, your dog can't tell you when he or she feels sick, so you must be extra vigilant and keep an eye out for these symptoms: sneezing, coughing, runny nose, fever, lethargy, eye and nasal discharge, and a decreased appetite. That said, not all dogs will exhibit symptoms, so scheduling a check-up with your vet is your best bet if you don't want to risk your pup's health.
If your dog is not sick, your vet may recommend vaccination options — yes, there is a dog flu vaccine — if it's appropriate. And if your pooch does indeed have dog flu, your vet can also advise you on the best treatment. (In some cases, this does require medication.) The CDC also recommends keeping your dog away from other animals to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. Clothing, equipment, surfaces, and hands should all be cleaned if you've come in contact with a sick dog.
Aim to be more careful this winter when it comes to detecting and preventing dog flu because there's nothing more pitiful than seeing your usually energetic pup turn into a sick, sneezy, miserable pooch.