Canine influenza is a contagious illness caused by a viral infection. Mild cases can be treated at home, but serious bouts will need a vet's care.
The H3N8 strain of the virus was reported in the United States in 2004. Racing Greyhounds in Florida were the first dogs reported to have canine flu. The illness is believed to have jumped from horses to dogs. In 2015, an outbreak occurred in Chicago. It was caused by a new canine influenza virus, H3N2. After analyzing it, this strain was almost genetically identical to a strain that had only been reported in Korea, China, and Thailand. Believed to have mutated from an avian influenza virus into a canine influenza virus, thousands of dogs have been infected all across the country since that outbreak occurred.
Two clinical syndromes have been reported in infected dogs, a moderate form of the disease and a more severe form, which is generally accompanied by pneumonia.
What are the symptoms of canine influenza?
Our dogs love to be around other furry friends. Visits to the dog park are a favorite pastime of many dogs. Nose-to-nose contact with an infected dog at the park is one of the ways that dog flu is spread. If your furry buddy is feeling unwell and you think they may have been near a dog with canine influenza, watch for these symptoms:
- Lack of energy
- Runny nose and eyes, often with a discharge
- Low appetite
The virus can be spread through dogs coughing and barking at each other, as well as sharing toys and water dishes. The virus can also come home with you on your clothes, so even if your pup is not with you the chance of them catching dog flu is there. Brachycephalic dogs like the Pug, Boxer, and Bulldog can often suffer more with the disease because of their pushed-in nose and restricted breathing pathways. Infections can occur in any season; there is no specific time of year that the flu is more prevalent in canines.
What can I do for my dog at home?
A mild to moderate case of dog flu can often be treated at home in the same way that we would treat a case of the human flu. However, if your dog seems to be worsening each day, do not delay because canine influenza can turn into pneumonia and become a serious illness. To treat your dog naturally at home try these steps:
Rest in a soft and comfy dog bed is just what a sick dog needs. Make sure they are warm. Some owners will put a heating pad under their dog but this must be monitored at all times so the pad does not get too hot and cause burns.
If your dog has a persistent cough, take them into the bathroom and allow the hot shower to steam the room. This will often reduce the cough symptoms. When you take your dog out of the steamy room, take them to a warm room because you do not want them to get a chill.
Purchase a diffuser and have your pup rest in a room for an aromatherapy session. Eucalyptus oil has decongesting properties, peppermint oil will help a stuffy nose, and lavender will calm and relax your dog. Consult your vet for the diffusing directions.
Vitamins and Chicken Broth
Vitamins C and E have properties that boost the immune system. Because liquids are an essential ingredient to recovery, you can give the vitamins along with water. If your dog is lethargic and reluctant to drink, make plain chicken broth for them to drink and add the vitamins to it.
To encourage your dog to eat, give them 3 or 4 meals a day. Add flavorful, canned dog food to the mix to encourage them to eat. The moisture in the dog food will be good for them as well. A meal or two of boiled chicken and rice may be a welcome treat.
Herbal Immunity Support
Additional natural remedies can be used to support your dog's immune system in the fight against the canine influenza virus, although their use and dosage should be discussed with your dog's vet.
- Echinacea or purple coneflowers can generate immunostimulatory activity
- Turmeric, from the ginger family, can modulate the immune response to improve health condition
- Hochuekkito, a Japanese herb, activates the energy metabolism in infected cells
Keep your veterinarian informed about your natural home care regimen. If at any time, you feel that your pet is not improving or is getting worse, take them to the veterinarian for clinical support.