Dog Flu: What Pet Owners Should Know to Keep Their Companions Healthy

July 22, 2015

Dog flu has made headlines in recent weeks and you may be wondering how to protect your pet from this condition.

Veterinary experts from the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) are sharing important information with Georgians to raise awareness about dog flu and how to ensure the health of your pet.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), dog flu is a contagious respiratory disease in dogs caused by specific Type A influenza viruses known to infect dogs. These are called canine influenza viruses. CDC also states that no human infections with canine influenza have ever been reported.

It’s vital for dog owners to be aware of how easily canine influenza can be spread to other dogs in order to take the necessary precautions to prevent exposure.

“Dog flu is spread to uninfected dogs when they come into contact with an infected dog or use objects that were previously used by a dog with dog flu,” said Julie Gabel, D.V.M., M.P.H., DPH state public health veterinarian. “Dog flu can be airborne, so keeping dogs separated is key to ensuring your pet does not contract the virus or spread it to other healthy dogs.”  

Although not all dogs will display the primary symptoms of dog flu, pet owners should pay close attention to symptoms such as cough, runny nose and fever. In more severe causes, dog flu can lead to pneumonia or other life-threatening conditions.

“Even if your dog is not exhibiting symptoms, but has been exposed to a symptomatic dog, you should keep your dog at home,” Gabel said. “The first 24 to 48 hours after exposure is when dogs are most contagious to other dogs. You should also consult with your veterinarian if you think your dog has been exposed so they can assist in monitoring your pet’s condition and provide treatment in a timely manner.” 

Lee Rudd, director of Human Resources at DPH, is an avid dog lover and describes his French bulldog, Samson, as happy, fearless and affectionate. Rudd took Samson home with him when he was only 15 weeks old; Samson is now 9 years old. The two are inseparable at times.

Since news about dog flu broke, Rudd has been diligent about keeping up with Samson’s health and paying close attention to where he walks his dog. 

“Samson cannot go to dog parks at the moment,” said Rudd. “Also, I do not board him when I travel. I have a dog sitter who stays with him at home while I am away.

Rudd follows one of the most simple and important methods to keeping Samson healthy and free from dog flu – keeping him away from other dogs when in public places.

“I have not noticed the symptoms of dog flu in Samson or other pets because we currently do not get close to them,” said Rudd. “However, we still play it safe. If a dog is coming down the street with his owner, I go in the opposite direction with Samson or take him inside.”

For more information about dog flu and how to protect your pet, call your veterinarian or visit CDC’s Canine Influenza website online.  

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