Most Brook Farmers know to get their seasonal flu shot before a coworker starts coughing or the kids come home with noses running. What might surprise some is that our canine friends are also susceptible to contagious bacterial and viral infections - year round.
Think about the last time you were sick. You probably felt run down, stuffy headed, and miserable. You may have had a cough that made your chest ache and your throat feel raw every time you started hacking. Imagine your dog feeling that same way but being unable to tell you “I feel rotten”.
Canine flu and kennel cough are rarely seriously debilitating diseases by themselves (though they can be a big concern for puppies, older dogs, or dogs with other health conditions) but that doesn’t mean you should take them lightly. Any time your dog’s immune system is fighting off an illness or infection, they’re at risk of other opportunistic viruses and infections coming in and making the situation worse.
Both canine flu and kennel cough are extremely contagious so it’s our responsibility as our dog’s friend and advocate to know the risks, symptoms, and what to do to keep them healthy.
Who is at risk of getting canine flu or kennel cough?
- Dogs with underdeveloped immune systems, like puppies
- Senior dogs
- Dogs with chronic health conditions
- Dogs who visits parks, playgroups, or kennels where they are exposed to unfamiliar animals
What is Kennel Cough?
Kennel Cough, also called canine cough and canine infectious tracheobronchitis, is an upper respiratory infection caused by both a bacteria and a virus. The most common culprit is a bacteria called Bordetella Bronchiseptica - which is why it’s also referred to as Bordetella.
Kennel cough happens when a dog is exposed to both the bordetella bacterium and an infectious virus like canine influenza. After contracting the flu virus, your dog’s immune system is weakened and the bacteria swoops in.
A dog suffering from kennel cough will have the telltale “honking” cough, sneezing and runny nose, lethargy and decreased appetite, and eye discharge. But dogs who are carriers may show no symptoms and still put other dogs at risk of getting sick.
Treatment often involves rest, keeping your pooch hydrated and away from other animals. Severe cases may require antibiotics and additional medication to help give the dog relief from his or her symptoms.
What is Canine Flu?
Canine flu, aka dog flu, is an infectious respiratory disease caused by a strain of the influenza virus. As with the viruses that affect humans, the canine flu virus is spread through the air. A sick dog that coughs, sneezes, or barks releases respiratory secretions into the air to pass along to the next dog.
So, when should you suspect canine flu? Symptoms are very similar to kennel cough, and can range from mild to severe. In addition to a runny nose, moist or dry coughing, runny eyes and lethargy, a dog with canine flu may develop a fever.
Treating the canine flu will always necessitate calling your Brook Farm vet. There isn’t a cure for the disease so you’ll need Dr. Clark or Dr. Kanouse to assess your pooch’s symptoms and advise on what supportive care you can give. Depending on how severely the flu is affecting your dog, extra fluids may be needed or anti inflammatory medications that can help with a fever.
As awful as both these diseases, prevention is simple and takes only a few minutes -- vaccinations with your Brook Farm family! A bordetella vaccine can be given every 6 or 12 months, depending on your dog’s risk factors. For canine flu, vaccination dramatically reduces the risk of catching the virus; the process involves 2 shots, given two to four weeks apart. As with humans, the duration of immunity is short, necessitating a canine flu vaccine every year.
Remember: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Reach out to your Brook Farm family and find out if your doggy friend needs any preventative vaccines to stay active and strong!