Your neighbor might not be the only one catching the flu this season in D-FW — vets say it’s possible your dog could catch the canine flu, especially after boarding him over the holidays.
Across North Texas, numerous pet shelters and clinics reported dog flu outbreaks in their facilities last month, including Operation Kindness in Carrollton, which briefly suspended adoptions in November.
Canine flu tends to spread in pockets, and the virus can be highly contagious locally, said Lori Teller, associate clinical professor at Texas A&M’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
“It’s not very common in the United States, but when it happens in an area, like the Dallas shelter or recently in Waco, a lot of dogs can get infected with it,” Teller said.
Teller added that canine flu is likely on the rise due to more people going out with their dogs. At the start of the pandemic, most pets stayed home and were less likely to catch the flu.
Here’s everything you need to know about canine flu, including what it looks like, how it spreads, and what to do if your dog becomes infected.
Canine flu is a disease that attacks cells in a dog’s airways, according to local no-kill animal shelter, Operation Kindness.
Similar to human flu, canine flu is also spread via respiratory droplets, including sniffing and licking other dogs and objects. Infected dogs can also transmit the virus by barking, coughing and sneezing.
“It spreads easily in dogs because they use their noses and mouths to do almost everything,” Teller said.
The infection can also remain in the environment for up to 48 hours, including on surfaces and clothing.
But unlike the regular flu which peaks in the fall and winter months, canine flu is not considered a seasonal virus. Infections in dogs can occur at any time of the year, and most occur in areas where dogs congregate, such as dog parks, dog daycares, and kennels.
Also, while all dogs are susceptible to the flu, younger and older dogs are more likely to catch the disease, Teller said. Dogs with underlying health conditions are also more prone to infections.
The virus isn’t deadly, but canine flu can lead to more serious health complications, Teller said. Less than 10% of dogs that catch the flu develop pneumonia.
Canine flu can also occasionally infect cats, but never humans. According to the CDC, no human beings have reported catching the canine flu.
Dogs that get the flu seem sluggish and may not want to play or interact with people, Teller said. Other primary symptoms include coughing and sneezing.
“They may seem painful,” she added. “For example, if they try to stand up, they may look sore and uncomfortable.”
Symptoms can last from one to three weeks, but it usually takes seven to ten days for the disease to run its course. It takes about two days for symptoms to develop in dogs, and owners may not know their dog is contagious until it’s too late.
Some signs of canine flu overlap with another upper respiratory illness called kennel cough. It is therefore important to consult your veterinarian to have your dog tested and determine the best treatment.
Since there is no cure for canine flu, vets are likely to treat symptoms by recommending antibiotics, anti-inflammatory medications or increasing fluid intake, according to Operation Kindness.
The best way to protect your dog from the flu is to get the canine flu shot, which is an initial set of two shots that requires an annual booster. Owners who regularly board their dogs should consider asking their veterinarian for a vaccine, Teller said.
Other preventative measures include cleaning shared spaces and surfaces, washing bedding, and disinfecting dog toys and bowls.
While humans cannot catch the flu from their dogs, people can transmit the virus from dog to dog. To prevent transmission, owners should practice good hygiene and change clothes after interacting with a potentially infected dog.
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