4 Things You Need to Know About the Canine Flu Epidemic

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The canine flu makes periodic appearances in various parts of the country from time to time. This viral infection is similar to strains that affect the human population -- it's infectious and has the capability to evolve into new strains. In fact, canine influenza is believed to have originated from flu strains specific to horses. Although dog flu normally isn't fatal to otherwise healthy and strong animals, it can sometimes be fatal in young puppies, older dogs, and those with compromised immune systems due to disease or being in the process of recovery from an injury. The following are five things that you need to know about the canine flu epidemic. 

Kennels and Shelters Are Major Culprits in the Spread of Canine Flu 

Kennels, shelters, and other environments in which dogs are housed closely together provide prime breeding grounds for the spread of canine influenza. If your dog has gotten loose and somehow ended up at your local animal shelter, there is a chance that it will come down with dog flu as a result of exposure to the virus. Your dog may also be exposed to the virus at boarding kennels, community dog parks, obedience classes, doggy daycares, and even the vet's office. Avoiding these environments as much as possible during epidemics of canine flu will limit your dog's exposure. If you must frequent anywhere with high canine population counts, talk to your vet about the possibility of having your dog vaccinated against the virus. 

Canine Influenza Vaccines Will Not Prevent Infection 

Even if you choose to have your dog vaccinated, however, that will not prevent it from coming down with dog flu. What it may do, however, is minimize the symptoms, therefore making the entire experience much more comfortable for your pet. Current attitudes among animal healthcare professionals are mixed toward the vaccine, A wise course of action may be to get pets that are at risk of developing complications from the flu vaccinated while still taking every precaution against exposure -- in other words, don't just get the animal vaccinated and think it means preventative measures are no longer necessary. 

You Can Carry the Virus on Your Hands or Clothing

Even those who have completely isolated their canine companions from possible carriers during a flu outbreak sometimes find themselves with a furry patient on their hands. This is because you can carry the virus to your pet if you have had contact with an infected animal during the past 24 hours or so. That cute puppy you stopped to pet in the park while enjoying your lunch break could possibly pass on the virus to your furry friend at home, so be meticulous about hygiene when it comes to animal encounters. Washing and disinfecting your hands is a great start, but it may not be enough -- if an infected dog leaves its saliva on your clothing, your dog can be exposed to the virus that way. Keep in mind that your dog will automatically go for the very spot that another dog has slobbered on due to its powerful sense of smell. Changing your clothing before interacting with your dog will help keep it safe from dog flu. 

Practice Supportive Care if Your Dog Gets Canine Influenza

Keep your dog warm and comfortable in the event that it comes down with canine influenza despite your best precautions. Because canine influenza is concentrated in the respiratory tracts of dogs, breeds with short snouts, such as pugs, bulldogs, and boxers, may experience more distress than their long nosed counterparts. Your vet will be able to provide you with a recommended course of dog treatment specific to your dog's age, breed, and overall general health.