Canine flu: how to prevent and treat it

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By Steve Guntli

Seattle health officials are warning that canine flu has broken out in King County. The outbreak affected more than 90 dogs at a kennel in Kent, and the disease has been confirmed in two dogs. While officials say the outbreak has been contained, it’s still important to know how to treat your dog if it starts showing symptoms.

The virus is known as H3N2 canine influenza, and it shares characteristics with the avian flu. The disease has affected nearly 2,000 dogs in 25 states over the last year, and in rare cases can be fatal.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the disease presents with symptoms similar to the flu in humans: runny nose, cough, fever, vomiting and diarrhea. Symptoms can be severe or non-existent. Dogs with severe symptoms can sometimes develop pneumonia, which can prove fatal, but the mortality rate of dogs afflicted with dog flu is less than 10 percent, according to the American Veterinary Medicine Association.

All breeds of dog are susceptible to the disease. It’s most commonly spread in places like kennels and shelters. If you suspect your dog may be sick, isolate it from other dogs. Also, be sure to clean any clothes, carpets or furniture that may have been exposed.

If you suspect your dog has contracted the canine flu, it’s important to call your vet ahead of time, and not just walk in. The vet will arrange to let the dog in another entrance to avoid contaminating any other dogs that might be in the waiting room.

The treatment for canine flu is similar to the human treatment: lots of bed rest and plenty of fluids. Your vet may prescribe antibiotics if there’s any sign of an infection, but most dogs will recover within a few days.

For more information, visit cdc.gov/flu/canineflu/keyfacts.htm.

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