The dog flu is becoming more prevalent in the United States, with several strains that are particularly worrisome, health officials are now warning.
Apparently, one of the most dangerous types of canine influenza is triggered by the H3N2 virus, which started off as an avian flu pathogen but eventually began infecting dogs as well.
The disease has also been confirmed to affect cats, and there are suspicions that it may sicken ferrets and guinea pigs as well.
The virus, which can’t be transmitted to humans also, was initially identified in South Korea back in 2007, later spreading across Thailand and China, and reaching the United States in April 2015.
Ever since that time, a total of 2,000 canines across 40 states have been infected. Dogs in kennels, shelters and rescue centers have been the most vulnerable because they tend to be kept crammed together, contagion occurring much more easily among them.
This flu season the virus strain has been confirmed in 25 states, being much more common nowadays than the other major type of canine influenza, caused by the H3N8 pathogen.
What started out as just a handful of cases has rapidly transformed in a full-blown epidemic, probably because unusually high temperatures have been followed by winter’s abrupt onset, the freezing cold catching humans and their pets completely off-guard.
In fact, the canine influenza outbreak is so widespread at the moment that several doggie daycare centers have been forced to shut down due to an excessive number of patients, as veterinarians are struggling to contain the infection.
As a result, owners should be on the lookout for symptoms associated with dog flu, in order to ensure that their four-pawed companions receive all the medical attention they require, as soon as possible.
As veterinarians explain, the most commonly encountered manifestations of canine influenza include: coughing, runny nose, sneezing, fever, labored breathing, fatigue, difficulty swallowing (dysphagia), loss of appetite etc.
Symptoms usually subside in around 10 days, but they may vary from dog to dog, some canines experiencing complications such as pneumonia, which can even prove fatal.
It must be noted that there is currently a vaccine against the H3N8 virus strain, but for now it’s unclear if that immunization would also be effective against the H3N2 pathogen as well.
Canine influenza is usually treated based on the severity of the disease: sometimes antibiotics are the only solution, while in other cases the virus can be fought off by increasing fluid intake and by using other medication, such as cough suppressants.
However, the efficacy of these treatments usually depends on pet’s immune system, which may be weak as a result of underlying health issues or old age.
Therefore, it’s best to take steps in order to ensure that your furry friend doesn’t catch the flu in the first place. For instance, it’s recommended to clean your hands thoroughly with warm water and soap when arriving back home, instead of immediately trying to pet your dog, no matter how much you missed each other.
Also, if you have several pups and just one is infected, you can reduce the risks of transmission by thoroughly cleaning clothes, surfaces and objects that have been touched by the canine who’s already affected by the flu.
Moreover, dogs that have the virus should be kept away from those that are still healthy, given the fact that the disease is highly contagious, the virus remaining active for up to 24 days and being able to manifest itself more severely among different pets.
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