Have you gotten a flu shot this season? What about your dog? Yes, dogs can get the flu, and there's a flu shot to protect them against the virus. Here's what you should know:
What is this doggy flu?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention believe the canine influenza virus first surfaced in 2004 amongst greyhounds, after a mutant form of the equine flu jumped from horses to dogs. Merck, one of the companies that makes the canine flu vaccine, says the virus has now been detected in 38 states. Doggy flu symptoms are quite similar to the human flu — thick nasal discharge, a consistent cough, and, in some cases, fever and respiratory issues. Veterinarians can confirm the presence of the virus with a blood test or nasal swab.
How dangerous is it?
Fatality rates for canine influenza range from 5 to 8 percent. But even when it's not deadly, the virus can still be dangerous if it opens the door to respiratory infection or pneumonia. Dogs with pushed-in noses, like pugs and Shi-Tzus, are at particular risk because of their bent, short respiratory tracts. "It really puts a strain on their ability to breathe," says Dr. Cynda Crawford with the veterinary school at the University of Florida. "They can't move air in and out of their lungs."
And there's a vaccine?
Both Merck and Pfizer manufacture a dog flu vaccine. It costs between $25 and $60, and is administered in two shots over several weeks, followed by an annual booster.
Does my dog need it?
Maybe, especially if your dog is being boarded or going to doggy daycare. Animals of any age are susceptible. Dr. Edward Dubovi, director of virology at Cornell University's Animal Health Diagnostic Center, recommends that dogs get the vaccine if they will be in close quarters, and in parts of the country where the has been an outbreak. "If I'm in New York City and going on a two-week vacation at Christmas and putting the dog in a kennel, then I'm vaccinating," he says. "If I'm in Kansas City where you don't know for sure the virus exists, then maybe I'm going to wait."
What about my cat?
Thus far, cats they are not known to have been affected by the virus.