Dog Flu - Symptoms and Treatment

By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. Updated: October 18, 2017
Dog Flu - Symptoms and Treatment

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It's certainly normal for you to suffer from colds and flu in the coldest or most blustery months of the year, whether due to the climate itself or the presence of a virus in your surroundings. Well, we at AnimalWised know that your dog is more like you than you think; they too are susceptible to contracting certain illnesses similar to yours, although they are caused by different factors.

That's why we want to tell you about dog flu, including the main symptoms and the treatment that needs to be followed. Despite being a minor condition, it can become fairly dangerous if the symptoms aren't spotted and treated early enough.

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What is canine parainfluenza?

Canine parainfluenza is a virus that belongs to the Paramyxoviridae family. Together with other groups of pathogens such as Bordetella, it is responsible for canine infectious tracheobronchitis, commonly known as kennel cough.

This virus is transmitted by air from one dog to another; this is why it's most commonly found when several dogs live together, hence the name "kennel cough". This transmission takes place through small droplets that are secreted by the dog's nose or mouth.

Canine parainfluenza virus attaches to and replicates in the cells lining the trachea, bronchi and bronchioles, nasal mucosa and lymph nodes, causing respiratory symptoms.

It is a disease that attacks the respiratory system, causing an infection deriving from the canine parainfluenza virus, also known as kennel cough.

We can't be sure that dog flu is caused by the climate, since it can only be caused by the presence of the virus in the dog's body. Diseases caused by low temperatures include colds.

Contrary to what many people believe, dogs cannot transmit flu to humans or vice versa, because a different microorganism causes flu in both species, although the symptoms are very similar. However, it is highly contagious from one dog to another, whether through sneezes, saliva or contact with objects that have been used by the ill dog. Even though it can be easily cured by taking them to the vet and looking after them properly at home, dog flu which is left untreated can easily lead to pneumonia, which could be fatal for your furry friend.

Dog Flu - Symptoms and Treatment - What is canine parainfluenza?

What are the symptoms of the dog flu?

The canine parainfluenza virus has an incubation period that ranges between 4 and 7 days, during which the dog doesn't manifest any symptoms.

The symptoms do not appear until when the virus is already replicating. The most obvious symptom of canine parainfluenza is a severe dry cough that culminates in retching. However, depending on each particular case the following symptoms can also be seen:

  • Ocular and nasal discharge
  • Fever: a dog's normal temperature is between 38 and 39 degrees centigrade. Any higher than this means that they have a fever.
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite: owing to irritation of the throat and pharynx, making it painful to swallow
  • Bronchopneumonia
  • Coughing
  • Vomiting
  • Expulsion of phlegm
  • No interest in playing and doing physical activity
  • Muscle pain
  • Dehydration
  • Sneezing
  • Difficulty breathing

Dog flu treatment

If you notice any of the aforementioned symptoms, the best thing to do is go to the vet so that they can confirm you are dealing with a case of dog flu, since there are other diseases (such as distemper) that show similar symptom's at least in the early stages.

Canine parainfluenza virus is diagnosed by taking a sample of the nasal or bucal mucosa in order to isolate and identify the virus or pathogen which is causing the symptoms. Blood tests can also be performed to check if there is a rise of certain antibodies in the blood.

Dog Flu - Symptoms and Treatment - Dog flu treatment

Treatment of canine parainfluenza

Once you are sure that your pet has dog flu, antibiotics and maybe an anti-inflammatory will be recommended for the dog. It is quite likely that the vet will decide to initiate an antibiotic treatment to prevent any complications. However, you should never give antibiotics to your dog without veterinary supervision. Under no circumstances should you administer your dog medicines designed for humans, or indeed any other drug, without asking the specialist first, as doing so could damage their organs which would have fatal consequences.

Besides pharmacological treatment, it is recommended to follow these steps for treating dog flu:

  • Keep the dog hydrated and give them plenty of fresh water.
  • Keep the animal away from drafts of air.
  • Give them blankets and a warm, dry and comfortable place to rest, which is away from noise.
  • Give them a proper diet: offer your dog healthy foods which are full of vitamins. If the dog refuses to eat, convince them to do so through affection and cuddles. You can also give them wet food.
  • Make sure the dog doesn't come into contact with other household pets to ensure the flu doesn't spread.
  • Clean the surfaces and objects that the dog uses.
  • Leave the dog to rest.

If you follow these tips and the vet's instructions down to the last detail, your dog will recover from dog flu in no time at all.

Dog Flu - Symptoms and Treatment - Treatment of canine parainfluenza

Prevention of canine parainfluenza

The canine parainfluenza vaccine is included in the vaccination schedule for puppies and dogs. Therefore, following your dog's vaccination schedule will be enough to prevent this disease.

Besides taking this important step, the dog should be specifically vaccinated against kennel cough if it is going to be confined with other dogs for a prolonged period, such as if you are going to leave it in a boarding kennel or residence for a time.

This vaccine can be given nasally or intraperitoneally, and if it is the first vaccination it will need numerous doses.

Dog Flu - Symptoms and Treatment - Prevention of canine parainfluenza

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to Dog Flu - Symptoms and Treatment, we recommend you visit our Viral diseases category.

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