All breeds of dogs living across the country have faced an outbreak of widespread canine influenza this year, according to a report from National Geographic. While it's a completely different strain from the flu that affects humans—and, good news, won't affect you—it's very contagious among dogs.
Earlier this summer, researchers identified a new strain of dog flu originating from China that is now affecting pets stateside—it's being called H1N1 (yes, the same moniker that was attached to the swine flu epidemic in 2009). Currently, the most prevalent strain of canine influenza virus (or CIV for short) is H3N2, which first broke out among canines in Chicago in 2015 before spreading to birds and, most recently, pets in New York City, National Geographic reports.
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In August, a local Indiana veterinarian warned locals of a deluge of flu cases among pets. Meredith Engerski, a practitioner within the Allisonville Animal Hospital, advised owners to look for the following warning signs as more pets become sick: Coughing, lethargy, higher fevers, a lack of appetite, and increased mucus as well as a running nose.
Without proper treatment, there's a 10 percent chance of mortality, the American Veterinary Medical Association says. According to this national agency, many strains of CIV also can affect cats as well—sickness is spread when dogs bark, cough, or sneeze when other pets are nearby. Given the virality of the sickness, you shouldn't be surprised if a dog shelter, groomer, kennel, or a daycare facility warns you of the infection risks should they become affected.
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Engerski says that pet owners should consider having their pet immunized with a vaccination against the flu the next time they head to the vet—especially if your pet visits a facility that doesn't require owners to vaccinate dogs.
“Here is the important part: You need to wait 10 days to take your pet to a boarding facility, doggy daycare, doggy park or anything like that. The vaccine is not instant. The immune response needs to happen at least 10 days,” said Engerski.
Newsweek reports that many unvaccinated dogs will catch the flu upon contact, but taking time to thoroughly disinfect chew toys, water bowls, leashes, and pet clothing could help protect your pet this flu season.