While they may hide it better, dogs, like their owners, are susceptible to respiratory illness. Thankfully, North Texas vets advise influenza prevention for dogs.
According to Dr. Sonya Hansen of BluePearl Pet Hospital North Texas in Lewisville, dogs can succumb to what is known as the canine infectious respiratory disease complex, a collection of numerous viruses.
“It can be viruses and actually bacterial infections. And it can present very similarly, so we often don’t know which one particularly a dog is being affected with,” Hansen explained.
“We haven’t specifically had any cases at our hospital yet or reported right in the Dallas area, but we know that it is moving,” she said.
The highly contagious respiratory illness can quickly spread from dog to dog. Vets recommend keeping a close eye on symptoms like reduced appetite, fever, shortness of breath, sneezing, gum discoloration, coughing, and discharge from the eyes or the nose.
“If you notice your dog has some, like, nasal discharge, coughing or sneezing, I would advise (that you) don’t bring your dog to any dog park or gathering, event,” suggested Dr. Sandy Young, a colleague of Dr. Hansen’s.
Young cautioned, “If a dog were to sneeze on your hands or you were to pet a dog and then you were to pet your own dog, you could transmit it that way.”
Although it can spread quickly, the sickness is typically not fatal for infected dogs, nor does it impact humans.
“It is very similar to the flu that humans get. Fortunately, it is not contagious to humans and only affects our dogs … They may be sluggish, they will sneeze and cough, may have some discharge from their nose, their appetite may be somewhat depressed, and they really just feel pretty yuck,” says Dr. Lori Teller, a veterinarian and clinical associate professor at Texas A&M University’s School of Veterinary Medicine.
Unlike the flu humans are familiar with, the canine respiratory disease does not necessarily ebb and flow with the seasons.
“It does not tend to be seasonal in our dog population. But I do think we are on hyperalert for any kind of viral outbreak, whether it’s human or dogs or other animals,” says Teller.
Owners should be particularly vigilant in areas where dogs gather, like “dog daycare”, boarding facilities, dog parks,” says Teller. “[A]ll of those kinds of things where dogs are in close contact with other dogs and that’s where it tends to spread.”
If your dog happens to succumb to influenza, Teller says some medications can be given to help relieve symptoms, so it may be worth consulting your veterinarian. She noted, however, that you “don’t give your dog the human medicine,” as “some of those can be really toxic.”