Flu Season Isn't Just For Humans: Symptoms And Treatment For Your Dog

When you think of flu season, you probably are reminded to get your flu shot and to stay home if you're feeling sick. However, you aren't the only one who is susceptible to catching the flu. Dogs can also get the flu virus, and you need to know how to respond when sickness hits.

How do you know that your dog will even be in danger of the flu?

If any animal carrying the dog flu, including horses, humans, cats, or other dogs, is around your dog, count on your dog getting sick. Dogs do not have a natural or built-up immunity to this strain of flu virus, so the chances of the sickness taking hold are high. Even if you are careful about covering your mouth and throwing away used tissues, be aware that flu viruses can live on solid surfaces like pet dishes or hardwood floors for up to 24 hours. Dogs can pass the flu to you as well, and your dog can catch the flu from other dogs from different houses.

How can you keep your dog from getting sick?

Avoid bringing your pet to other people's homes, especially for large gatherings, during flu season. People traveling from different regions can bring viruses with them, or children can bring them home from school from other families. Also, visit you local vet clinic to get your pet vaccinated.Vaccines don't always prevent the flu, but they can make it less serious if your dog does catch it. Vaccines are more important for dogs that have short snouts, like bulldogs. These dogs have a harder time fighting the congestion that comes from the flu, because they have a shortened and crowded respiratory tract.

Not all dogs who actively carry the flu virus will appear sick, which is another reason to avoid intense interaction with other humans and dogs during flu season. Your dog can catch the flu from dogs who are sick on the inside, but appear to be perfectly healthy. 

What are the symptoms to look for?

Dogs suffer from similar symptoms as humans: runny nose, joint pain, fatigue, and loss of appetite. Your dog can also run a fever. Dogs have a higher body temperature than humans-- usually hovering around 101 or 102 degrees Fahrenheit-- so anything above 103 is considered to be a fever. A slight fever is a natural reaction to the flu, but a higher temperature can lead to complications, including death or nerve damage. You can use a simple baby thermometer to check the rectal temperature of your dog's fever. You should consider it an emergency if the fever reaches 106 degrees and contact your vet immediately. 

How do you treat your dog's flu at home?

The flu virus will run its course; most dogs are no worse for wear if you administer the proper care. Your biggest challenge will be keeping your dog hydrated. If your dog is fatigued and doesn't feel like eating or drinking, dehydration can lead to complications. Use a dropper or syringe to make sure your dog gets plenty of fluids, and encourage rest by keeping your dog comfortable in his kennel away from other pets or children. Your dog can be contagious to other dogs for several days, so even if he is looking better, it's best to keep him indoors to prevent the sickness from spreading. 

Never give dogs human medications for pain and fever. These can be fatal for them. Instead, contact your vet about medicinal relief that is available for dog sicknesses. 

Your vet can answer any additional questions you have about how the flu can affect your specific breed of dog, so don't hesitate to call if you dog is showing any symptoms of illness during flu season.  For more information, contact a professional at Pet Medical Center – Full Service Veterinary Care.