Dog flu is a contagious respiratory illness that affects dogs. If you believe your dog has the flu, you may want to try dog flu treatment at home with natural remedies. However, before you do that, you need to know what the dog flu is, signs and symptoms, and how it’s generally managed.
Cause of the Dog Flu
It’s caused by an influenza A virus, the same virus that causes human influenza. The disease is usually mild, but in some cases it can be severe and even fatal. Dogs get dog flu from other dogs and sometimes from horses. The virus spreads easily through close contact with other infected animals or people who have been around infected dogs.
The first strain of dog flu, called H3N8, was found in greyhounds that raced in 2004. This strain started out in horses, but it changed so that it now affects dogs. The H3N2 strain of canine flu is very similar to the flu that birds get.
It was first seen in the US in 2015, and it is the main strain that will cause the dog flu outbreak in 2022 and 2023. Both strains are very easy to spread, so if your dog has been diagnosed, it’s important to keep them away from other dogs.
Signs and Symptoms of Dog Flu
The dog flu and kennel cough have similar signs making it difficult to diagnose without testing. Many dogs don’t show any signs of illness when they’re exposed to dog flu, but others develop these symptoms:
- Coughing, which may produce a lot of mucus
- Runny nose; sneezing
- Lethargy; loss of appetite
- Discharge from the eyes
- Lack of appetite
Visiting the Veterinarian
Although the flu being life-threatening is rare, it can become serious quickly depending on how your dog’s body reacts. If you notice any of the following, take your dog to the vet immediately:
- If the fever goes over 105 degrees Fahrenheit
- Lethargic behavior
- Labored breathing
How Dog Flu is Diagnosed
If your dog shows signs of being ill with influenza, your vet may decide to test for it. Kennel cough is another common respiratory disease in dogs. Because the treatment for mild cases of flu and kennel cough may be the same, testing is not always done right away. Your vet will do an exam to help figure out how thorough the tests and treatment will need to be.
Most tests are done on a swab of the nose or a sample of blood. Your vet will send these samples to either a local diagnostic lab. There are different kinds of tests, but an antibody blood test is the most accurate of all of them. For accurate results, sometimes you need to get two samples and test them two to three weeks apart.
If your case is serious, your veterinarian may also request the following:
- X-rays of the chest
- Blood test to check CBC
- Throat culture
Dog Flu Treatment at Home
In a mild case of dog flu, your dog will probably need general care and monitoring. Make sure they are drinking water and encourage them to eat. If you need something more enticing, bone broth works wonders and is nutrient dense to help give the immune system a boost.
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If you can, check your dog’s temperature. A normal temperature is between 100 and 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit for most dogs. If your dog’s temperature is higher, contact your vet.
Preventing the Flu in Dogs
If you are planning a trip to the beach or park with your dog this summer, make sure he is up-to-date on his vaccinations before you go.
Dogs can get two types of vaccines against the flu: one prevents infection from several strains of influenza A and B viruses; the other prevents infection from a single strain of influenza A virus.
Your dog is less likely to get the flu if they are vaccinated, and if they do get it, their symptoms should be less severe.
Beware of the Flu Virus
The flu virus can cause severe illness in dogs, even if they have no other underlying health problems. A dog who is vaccinated against the flu will have antibodies in their blood that can help prevent them from getting sick if exposed to the virus.