It’s already been a “ruff” flu season, in more ways than one. Humans across the U.S. have been dealing with a big surge in influenza cases. That’s after Covid-19 precautions over the past two Fall and Winters had seemingly put flu seasons on pause. And now those with paws, namely dogs, have been suffering from surges in the flu as well, specifically the dog flu. Veterinarians have been reporting outbreaks of such illnesses in various parts of the U.S. such as Texas and California, according to the following KRON news segment:
Yeah, it’s been a dog-infect-dog world or at least country with many dogs transmitting a highly contagious H3N2 strain of the canine influenza virus (CIV) to each other. If you are human, this CIV strain is highly unlikely to infect you and get you sick. However, if you happen to have a tail, a strong urge to sniff other dogs’ butts, and a tendency to chase after sticks when someone throws them, catching this CIV strain can leave you as one sick puppy or one sick adult dog, depending on how old you happen to be. If you are not sure whether or not you are a dog, see your doctor or perhaps your veterinarian as soon as possible. It will be important to know to gauge of getting sick with the dog flu and for other aspects of your life.
CIVs are similar to human influenza viruses in many ways. A dog sick with canine influenza can end up transmitting the virus to others via direct contact, contaminating surfaces with the virus, or dispersing virus-laden respiratory droplets into the air via coughing, barking, or singing. Since dogs don’t tend to wear face masks or cough into their elbows, just one dog in a kennel or a doggie day care center can quickly get many other dogs infected. Since the dog flu may not be as common as the human flu and many dogs may not be vaccinated against the CIV, many dogs may be very susceptible to catching the virus. Like the human flu, you don’t have to have symptoms to be contagious.
According to the American Veterinary Association, around 20% of dogs with the dog flu don’t show any symptoms. The exact number is unclear since dogs don’t tend to say, “dude, not feeling well.” Symptoms tend to appear two- to four- days after the initial infection. Common symptoms include fevers, a persistent cough including something called “kennel cough,” a thick discharge from the nose, discharge from the eyes, and a reduced appetite. The dog flu can also leave you dog-tired if you are a dog. Or perhaps dogs may use the term human-tired for lethargy. Nonetheless, most dogs do fully recover from such symptoms in about two to three weeks. There is the risk, though, of infections progressing to even more severe illness such as pneumonia, especially when secondary bacteria infections occur. The dog flu can lead to death, but that happens in less than 10% of all cases.
Why has dog flu been on the rise? Well, dogs could blame humans. After all, humans are responsible for many of the problems of the world such as pollution and Dancing with the Stars. It’s not as if more and more dogs have recently decided to go to kennels and doggie day care centers themselves. This has been the result of more and more people traveling and returning to in-person work in 2022. More dogs have been traveling too, but not because they’ve been worried about losing their frequent flier mileage or trying to exact “revenge travel” on who knows whom. No, dogs’ human owners have been the ones more likely to travel more this year than the previous two years. And where their human owners go, dogs tend to go. Because why wouldn’t a dog want to go through airport security.
So how do you avoid the dog flu if you are indeed a dog? Well, you could stay away from other dogs who may be infected. Any dog who is infected with the CIV should remain isolated throughout the duration of the illness. But you know how good dogs are at declaring that they have the dog flu and keeping themselves isolated. You can also get vaccinated against the H3N8 and H3N2 strains of CIV if you are a dog. This will be especially important if you happen to be a dog who frequents dog parks, dog kennels, dog raves, the local Dogbucks, or any other doggie gathering place. The vaccine isn’t 100 percent effective at preventing the dog flu so it will be important to still be careful around other dogs. Don’t just go and sniff any other dog’s butt. But the vaccine can reduce your risk of catching the virus, “fur” real, regardless of what anti-vaccination nonsense you may have heard on Tailbook, Barker or whatever social media platform dogs tend to use.
Again, if you are human, don’t worry about catching the dog flu yourself. It’s true that this currently circulating H3N2 CIV strain used to be for the birds but over time acquired the ability to infect dogs. However, there is no evidence that this particular virus has mutated to the point that it can “paws-ibly” infect humans. With the current surges in Covid-19, the flu, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infections and many people avoiding face mask wearing like dogs avoid chili peppers, humans already have plenty of other respiratory viruses hounding them this Holiday season.