This page looks at the dog flu virus that causes dogs to come down with influenza, the signs and symptoms and conventional treatment of dog flu, as well as how to use natural remedies such as herbs, minerals, and vitamins to support a sick dog's immune system so it can fight off the infection.
The dog flu virus that can cause our dogs to become sick is an influenza A H3N8 influenza virus that was originally an equine (horse) flu virus.
This virus has spread to dogs, mutated, and can now spread between dogs, causing a respiratory disease called canine influenza. Canine influenza is a disease of dogs, not of humans. The virus is similar to the equine flu and quite different from the swine flu or avian flu that can infect people.
The number of dogs at risk from dying from this virus may be anywhere from 1 to 10%.
The original H3N8 equine influenza virus has been known to exist in horses for more than 40 years.
In 2004, however, some greyhounds developed cases of an unknown respiratory illness, which was later found to be caused by the equine influenza A H3N8 virus. It is believed that this virus crossed species barriers (from horses to dogs) and has now adapted to infect dogs and spread among dogs.
In September, 2005, this strain of virus was "officially" regarded as a new dog-specific lineage of H3N8.
The virus is transmitted by direct contact with an infected dog's nasal secretions (through sneezing and coughing) and also through direct contact with contaminated materials such as beddings, food and water bowls, etc.
If your dog is coughing or showing other signs of dog flu, do not bring your dog to facilities where other dogs can be exposed to the virus.
There are two risk factors that can trigger dog flu infection:
The virus has an incubation period of 2 to 4 days, i.e. after a dog has been exposed to the virus, the dog will show upper respiratory symptoms 2 to 4 days later. The symptoms last for about 7 days during which period the dog is infectious.
Symptoms that are similar to those in kennel cough, including such upper respiratory symptoms as:
In addition, the dog may show symptoms such as:
In serious cases, it can progress to pneumonia as the flu virus opens the respiratory system to secondary bacterial infection, resulting in bacterial pneumonia which can become life-threatening.Back to Tab
Most dogs infected with the flu virus will recover with no treatment.
At present, conventional treatment largely consists of supportive care only. For example:
In May 2009, the first dog influenza vaccine (developed by Intervet/Schering Plough Animal Health Corporation) has been approved by the USDA. However, since over-vaccination can be harmful to dogs, weigh the pros and cons carefully before vaccinating your dog against the dog flu virus. If your dog is not frequently boarded and lives a relatively stress-free life, you most likely do not need to vaccinate your dog against this flu.Back to Tab
Natural remedies such as herbs, minerals, and vitamins can be used to support the immune system of a dog infected with dog flu virus. By strengthening the dog's immune system, he will be more ready to fight off the virus and the infection will not last as long and the symptoms not as serious.
Herbs that strengthen and support the immune system include echinacea, astragalus, cat's claw, as well as various mushrooms. In particular, reishi, maitake, and shiitake mushrooms have been found to have high levels of polysaccharides which have immune-enhancing properties.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant and can also boost the immune system so that the body can fight off diseases.
In addition, other antioxidants such as vitamins E, Coenzyme Q10, and green tea have been found to be effective in immune support.
This Chinese herbal formula is very effective in reducing phlegm and decreasing coughing, as well as supporting the digestion system.
If your dog is infected with the dog flu virus, make sure that she has enough rest. Restrict and limit the amount and intensity of exercise.
In addition, give your dog plenty of fluid to prevent dehydration. If your dog does not want to drink water. add a bit of flavor to the water (e.g. chicken broth) to entice her to drink more.
Keep your dog away from environmental irritants and pollutants (e.g. cigarette smoke, house dust, etc.) as much as possible.
If your dog is coughing, use essential oils to soothe and calm your dog. Essential oils that have antibacterial and antiviral properties, such as oils of lavender, eucalyptus, and niaouli, are effective. Add chamomile essential oil for its calming effect so that your dog can relax and rest better. Add these oils to a diffuser or vaporizer and use it in the room where your dog rests.
Prevention is better than cure! Here are some ways to prevent canine influenza: