Can a dog get a cold flu?
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Can a dog get a cold flu?


One question that has been doing the rounds in many blog forums and research papers is this: Can a dog catch a cold flu? Some say, "yes", while others firmly deny it. Many people refer to cough and runny nose in a dog as a cold flu. Some refer to any upper respiratory infections in a dog as a cold flu.

Dogs can cough due to many reasons. Sometimes persistent coughing and sneezing may lead to a runny nose. This could very well be caused by allergies. Once the source of the allergy has been removed, the dog will immediately stop sneezing and coughing.

Some people mistakenly believe that kennel cough is the same as a cold flu in a dog. Kennel cough is caused by a bacterium called Bordetella, and this is highly infectious. The dog mostly catches this disease from a boarding kennel or from a shelter. Antibiotics and a cough medicine will speed up the recovery of such dogs.

More recently, dogs have been attacked by flu. Dog flu is a more recent phenomenon, and has been first diagnosed in racing greyhounds in Florida. Dogs are usually down with fever or cough and fever. A runny nose and pneumonia are some other symptoms. Since this is a relatively new phenomenon, most dogs do not have the immunity against the virus that causes it. Inherent immunity from genes is also not present. On the sunny side, most dogs catch the milder form of the flu, and recover within a fortnight or so. The more severe form is a little complicated. It starts with cough, and then proceeds to fever. The dog may also suffer from pneumonia. This is caused by secondary bacterial infections that attack the natural respiratory lining within the respiratory tract, thus making the dog susceptible to other diseases.

Just as the cold flu can spread in humans through contact, so also the dog flu spreads from one dog to another in boarding kennels, animal shelters, dog parks etc. in fact, any area that holds a large number of dogs at one time is a danger zone. Almost all dogs exposed to the virus will be infected. Some 5% will catch the acute form. Some will not show any signs of infection, but will be active carriers of the disease for about a week. Dogs do not even need direct physical contact to catch the disease. Since this affects the respiratory tract and is present in the respiratory discharges, the disease is air borne.

Early symptoms of the dog flu are very similar to the kennel flu. But kennel flu is a bacterial infection, while dog flu is caused by a virus. In kennel cough, there is a persistent dry, racking cough. Dog flu has a moist cough. Mortality rate due to dog flu is generally quite low. Most dogs recover quickly, although some dogs do succumb when the condition becomes complicated due to secondary infections. Poor health or old age may exacerbate the illness, thus rendering the dog helpless in the face of the slightest infection.

Cough alone is not an indicator of dog flu. A cough accompanied by mild flu or cold symptoms may be treated with a cough suppressant. Mild infections seen at this early stage should be treated with antibiotics, to prevent serious secondary infections. High fever warrants hospitalization and treatment using IV fluids. Blood tests will reveal if the dog does indeed carry the flu virus.

Dog flu is still being studied and investigated. It is said that a vaccine will shortly be developed. Till such a time, it is better to be cautious when you go to public places with your dog. Do not share a drinking cup, or a plate with another dog. If your own dog shows any symptoms of cough, keep him away till all symptoms disappear.

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