Have you heard about the canine influenza virus that has been spreading across the country? Dogs in 13 states have been affected, with at least eight pets having died as a result. If you were planning on boarding your pet soon, you might be rethinking your summer travel plans – or at least what to do with Fido while you’re away.

So, what is a pet owner to do to keep their pet safe from the canine flu? Learn what you need to know to not let this villainous virus ruin your summer fun.

Do I Need to Keep My Dog Away From Other Dogs?

Canine influenza is a highly contagious respiratory virus that affects dogs specifically. We first experienced it in the United States in 2004, and just a few months ago the outbreak began in the Chicagoland area caused by a slightly different Asian strain.

Chicago’s alert has now been lowered from an epidemic to a concern. Dog parks, day care centers and kennels are open again with dog owners being encouraged to socialize their pets. Does that mean these places are now safe for dogs? Yes and no. The risk is low if you are smart and take precautions.

The Facts About the Flu

Canine influenza is spread through respiratory secretions, making pets who are housed closely together, such as in a boarding kennel, at higher risk. If the virus is present on toys, bowls, or other surfaces, it can be spread as well.

Dogs who are infected with the canine flu often experience:

  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Fever

Most infected dogs will have only mild to moderate symptoms, with some dogs showing no signs of illness at all. A small percentage of dogs who contract the canine flu, though, can go on to develop pneumonia and may become seriously ill. Other illnesses can cause similar symptoms so don’t panic if your pet exhibits these symptoms. We or your regular veterinarian can test to determine exactly what is wrong.

How to Protect Your Pet From Canine Flu

With the spread of this relatively new disease, it is easy to panic and cancel your summer vacation for fear of boarding your pet, or to keep your pet indoors and away from other dogs out of fear. Keep your summer plans on the books with these steps to help you feel more secure about boarding or socializing your pet.

  • Be sure that your pet is up to date on vaccines. Two of the diseases in the distemper combination vaccine and the Bordetella (kennel cough) vaccine can help your pet fight off other respiratory infections, such as canine flu.
  • Only choose boarding facilities that require pets to have the standard vaccinations for boarding, and recommend the canine flu vaccine.
  • Ask what procedures your boarding facility takes to prevent the spread of infectious disease. See if the kennel seems aware about the symptoms of canine influenza.
  • Think about getting your pet vaccinated against canine influenza. The available vaccine is not specifically for the most recent Asian strain, but it may offer some cross protection.
  • Talk to the facility about their sanitation practices. See if it looks clean and well run.
  • Choose a boarding facility with onsite medical staff who understand the flu (or other medical issues) and who understand how to prevent and treat any type of illness.
  • If your pet has been boarded and is showing signs of being ill, do not delay in seeking veterinary attention right away.

Even if your dog contracts canine influenza, severe illness is highly unlikely – as long as he or she receives proper medical care. Just as with human influenza–it isn’t fatal for most.

You might think twice, though, about boarding a pet who has a compromised immune system. This includes geriatric dogs, very young puppies, and those with any type of illness that suppresses the immune system. For these pets, you might consider hiring a pet sitter or revamping to a more dog-friendly vacation where possible.

If you have any questions about canine influenza or our Union Lake Pet Services boarding services, please let us know. We want to help you have a great, fun-filled summer.