By Sue Hubbard, M.D., www.kidsdr.com
Seem like a funny time of year for me to be writing about flu? Well, now the problem is dog flu, which has been spreading rapidly across the country.
Dog flu is caused by an influenza virus and is a contagious respiratory disease in dogs. Fortunately, however, there have been no reported human infections involving either of the viruses that cause dog flu.
These viruses are of the Influenza A variety and cause symptoms in dogs similar to those seen in humans with flu, including cough, runny nose, fever, lethargy and at times, severe respiratory symptoms, including pneumonia. Sadly, some dogs have died due to this infection.
Because this is fairly new virus, most dogs have never been exposed to the illness. Consequently — as is the case with new influenza viruses in humans — most dogs exposed (about 80 percent) will develop dog flu. However, the majority will suffer only mild symptoms and merely require supportive care including extra fluids and rest.
If you’re concerned that your pet may be showing signs of dog flu, there’s a test your vet can administer (just like we do flu tests for children). Extremely ill dogs, especially young puppies or pregnant dogs, may have a harder time handing the virus (again, does this sound familiar?).
The main thing to know is that dog flu is not being transmitted to people. There is a vaccine for one type of dog flu, and the veterinary community is working on other vaccines. Therefore, there’s no need to worry about your children playing with their dog.
As you would with your kids, make sure your dog is up to date on his/her vaccines, eats a healthy diet, exercises daily, gets enough sleep and enjoys lots of family time.
This is good time to remind you that the new human flu vaccine (for 2015-2016) will be available by the end of the summer!
(Dr. Sue Hubbard is an award-winning pediatrician, medical editor and media host. “The Kid’s Doctor” TV feature can be seen on more than 90 stations across the U.S. Submit questions at http://www.kidsdr.com. The Kid’s Doctor e-book, “Tattoos to Texting: Parenting Today’s Teen,” is now available from Amazon and other e-book vendors.)