Dog Flu Virus

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.

Dog Flu Virus 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%.

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History of Dog Flu Virus

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.

Natural Treatment of Canine Influenza

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How Does Dog Flu Virus Spread?

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:

  • Overcrowding, as such, dogs boarded in kennels are more at risk of being exposed to and infected with the flu virus.
  • Stress - just like humans, dogs who are stressed will have suppressed immune systems, making them more susceptible to infections and other diseases.

Symptoms of Canine Influenza

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:

  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose

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.

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Treatment for Canine Influenza

Most dogs infected with the flu virus will recover with no treatment.

At present, conventional treatment largely consists of supportive care only. For example:

  • Antibiotics: This may be prescribed if a secondary bacterial infection is suspected.
  • Intravenous Fluid Therapy: To ensure that the infected dog is well hydrated.
  • Other Medications: Other medications to make the dog more comfortable, such as cough suppressants, may also be prescribed.

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.

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Natural Remedies for Dogs with Influenza

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.

An Excellent Natural Herbal Supplement

Six GentlePets

This Chinese herbal formula is very effective in reducing phlegm and decreasing coughing, as well as supporting the digestion system.

How to Care for Your Dog

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.

Also use this natural homeopathic remedy to help soothe the cough:

Preventing Dog Flu

Prevention is better than cure! Here are some ways to prevent canine influenza:

  • Avoid contact with dogs (and other animals) that may be shedding the flu virus.
  • Avoid unnecessary vaccines and topical flea and tick preventives during a flu outbreak as these can weaken a dog's immune system.
  • Feed your dog a well-balanced, natural diet.
  • Consider using supplements (e.g. turmeric, oregano, salmon oil) to help boost the dog's immune system and fight inflammation, bacteria and viruses.
  • Make sure the dog receives regular exercise.

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Chicken Soup for Dogs Recovering from the Flu

Healthy chicken soup gives nutrients to a dog recovering from the flu, who usually is weak and does not have a good appetite. Soup can boost the dog's immune system, provides fluid to the body and prevents dehydration. The taste can also entice a dog with low appetite to eat.

Check out this healthy and yummy bone broth:

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Is Your Dog Coughing?

Pssst! If your dog is having the flu and is coughing, you may also want to consider using some natural remedies to ease his cough.