If you thought catching the flu was something only you needed to worry about, you may want to think again.
Arkansans are on high alert for influenza this season, but dog flu should be on the radar, too. It's highly contagious and can be deadly.
According to Dr. Chloe Charlton with the Pinnacle Valley Animal Hospital, influenza can mutate quickly and has started affecting cats in the past year, too. Unlike human flu, dog flu outbreaks can occur at any time of the year.
“It really makes me nervous. Especially since she's just a puppy and hasn't even seen a whole year of life yet,” one dog owner said.
Arkansas has had several flu-related deaths reported this season and the numbers are likely to continue increasing.
But what about pets? Is your dog at risk of getting sick as well?
“At first it was just a small outbreak in several cities. Now, I believe it has gone to about 40 different states,” Charlton said.
Fortunately, Arkansas hasn’t seen any cases of dog influenza yet this year. But there is still concern, as its often misdiagnosed. It’s only a matter of time.
“It first hit the show dog circuit, that's where most cases were found. These dogs move around the country and it really can be found anywhere,” Charlton said.
Symptoms are similar to that of human flu. Coughing, sneezing, a runny nose or fever are things to look out for.
The virus can live in an environment for up to 48 hours on surfaces.
“People can actually transfer it as well from dog to dog,” she said.
Dog flu symptoms can often mimic that of kennel cough, another upper respiratory infection.
There are flu vaccines available.
“We'll be here right away as soon as I see something, the first ones,” the pet owner said.
Vaccines are recommended for dogs that are going to be around other dogs.
“That's a lot of our patients. Dogs that go to be groomed, daycare, or boarding facilities could be at risk for getting canine influenza,” Charlton said.
There are two strains of dog flu, H3-98 and H3-N2. The vaccine doesn't guarantee your dog won't get the flu, but it will lessen the severity. The first time your dog gets the vaccine it needs to be boostered, that means another shot 3 weeks later.
After that, the shot should be repeated every year.