While dogs are largely immune to many of the illnesses that plague humans, they can contract their own highly uncomfortable and sometimes highly dangerous illnesses. Canine Influenza Type A is caused by a virus that infects a dog’s respiratory system. It is highly contagious, and while some dogs can successfully fight the virus without ever showing any clinical signs, others may struggle with this relatively new virus. Dogs that are in especially fragile states of health, including puppies, senior dogs and dogs with other immune system illnesses or health conditions, are especially at risk. It is therefore important to understand and identify the basic signs of canine influenza and seek immediate treatment where necessary.
Signs of Canine Influenza
Generally speaking, a dog owner should always be wary and watchful when their dog is acting differently. A normally calm dog that is extremely agitated, a normally active dog that is suddenly very mellow, and any dog that refuses food or treats is likely suffering from some medical condition that requires veterinary diagnosis and treatment. In the case of canine influenza, it is especially important to watch for specific signs that require immediate treatment. The three main signs of canine influenza include:
1. A moist cough with nasal discharge and sneezing. If this is the only sign that your dog is displaying, it may be a mild case of canine influenza that may go away on its own after ten to thirty days. However, if your dog is coughing up blood or having difficulty breathing, he may have hemorrhagic pneumonia and he most certainly needs immediate treatment. In any case, it is always best to check in with your veterinarian.
2. A sudden, high fever above 104 degrees Fahrenheit and general malaise. As occurs in humans, a feverish dog will often be listless and disinterested in food and human interaction.
3. Red or runny eyes. In some cases, influenza causes a discharge out of the dog’s eyes, resulting in red or runny eyes.
Treating Canine Influenza
If your dog is suffering from the signs of canine influenza, your veterinarian may choose to perform a complete blood count and clinical chemistry on your dog. This will help to determine whether it is, in fact, canine influenza or some other illness. Your veterinarian may also suggest x-rays of your dog’s lungs if they suspect pneumonia, in order to determine the type and appropriate treatment.
In the case of mild canine influenza where there is a moist, persistent cough, your veterinarian may prescribe cough suppressants. In cases with a secondary bacterial infection, antibiotics may be necessary. Your dog will definitely need lots of rest and to be isolated from other dogs during the recovery period.
In the case of severe canine influenza, your dog may need to be hospitalized and given a broad spectrum of antibiotics, fluids and other supplements until they have stabilized. Your dog will need to remain isolated from other dogs while he is closely monitored for both improvements and worsening symptoms.
With a new vaccine against canine influenza now available, as well as aggressive treatment options, most dogs should be able to recover fully from this illness–some entirely without any sort of medical treatment at all. Perhaps one of the most dangerous aspects of canine influenza is an owner’s erroneous belief that their dog is suffering from the less serious kennel cough illness and therefore doing nothing in the way of treatment. There are some similarities in the symptomatology of these two illnesses, including coughing and fever, so it is always wise to check with your veterinarian to be sure of the diagnosis, and then partake of the appropriate treatment.