PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The flu’s not just for humans anymore. Your pet can get it, too.
But if you’re hearing talk about dog flu, there’s no need to panic. There are only certain circumstances that increase your dog’s chances of catching it. Luckily, for pet owners, there are also vaccinations.
“It usually occurs in shelters. It usually occurs in veterinary hospitals really, but mostly in shelters and boarding facilities,” said veterinarian Dr. Mike Hutchinson, of Animal General in Cranberry Township.
If your dog is kept at home, away from other dogs, there is very little chance of them catching the flu.
“Going to the dog park increases the risk a little bit because we don’t know where those dogs are from. If one is from the neighborhood here in Pittsburgh, we’re not so worried, but what if they went to show and now they’re in the dog park,” said Dr. Mike.
According to Dr. Mike, dog flu is usually treatable and typically does not cause death, except in immunosuppressed dogs.
If you’ve never heard of dog flu, you’re not alone.
“No, I’ve never heard of that before,” said Rachel Tennant.
The two strains of it only came into existence in recent years.
“The first one, I think it was in 2004-2005, mutated from a horse virus into dogs. So then another one mutated a few years ago in 2015 from birds into dogs,” said Dr. Mike.
The virus cannot be transmitted from a dog to a human and vice versa, according to Dr. Mike. It’s spread from dog to dog and a cat could get it from a dog, too.
Dog flu symptoms are easy to spot.
“They can get a very high fever, if they get a severe form. They can get a very bad nasal discharge, a lot of cough, very sick, don’t want to eat, don’t want to drink — typical flu signs,” said Dr. Mike.
Rachel Tennant is a dog mom to Gir, Sunny, and Addie.
“I feel like any dog owner, you’re aware of your pets, you’re paying attention to them, so I think that knowing this now I’d be like there’s something wrong with my dog,” said Tennant.
There is a vaccination for each strain.
“I would definitely consider it more if there is an actual risk of them being exposed to that,” said Tennant.
Dr. Mike recommends it when boarding and attending dog shows.
“Our area so far has not been an endemic area for the flu in dogs. It could develop into one and then we would change our recommendations, but so far, we’re not having that issue,” said Dr. Mike.
According to Dr. Mike, dog flu vaccinations will not prevent a dog from getting the flu entirely. Instead, a vaccinated dog will just get a milder form of the disease.