Yes, Dogs Can Get the Flu. Here's What You Should Know About It


Humans aren’t the only ones suffering this flu season. As Newsweek reports, a significant number of dogs across America are falling victim to strains of canine-specific influenza virus this year.

The human flu is caused by multiple, ever-changing virus strains and tends to be most common during the fall and winter. In contrast, the two specific Type A influenza viruses that affect dogs—the H3N8 virus and H3N2 virus—are present year-round. It can spread through barking, coughing, and sneezing, and is highly contagious.

The American Veterinary Medical Association says that any pooches exposed to the virus will almost certainly fall ill themselves. Similar to the human flu, symptoms include a cough, sneezing, runny nose and eyes, listlessness, and a high fever, according to U.S. News & World Report.

"It looks like kennel cough, but [the dogs] get sicker faster," veterinarian Anita Moore, who runs an animal clinic in Lothian, Maryland, tells Mental Floss. "The dogs have a higher fever. Most of them can recover in two to three weeks, but it can kill some animals who aren't in good health."

Unfortunately, this season seems to be an especially bad one for dog flu. The Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, which uses online surveillance maps to track canine influenza transmission rates, has found that in the past 45 days alone, 109 dogs have tested positive for the influenza virus. California has reported 72 sick pooches, and other cases have been confirmed in Kentucky, Ohio, and Michigan.

Both strains of dog flu are tied to influenza strains that affect other species. Canine H3N8, for example, was first discovered in Florida racing greyhounds in 2004, but experts think it originally stemmed from an equine influenza strain that jumped to dogs. Meanwhile, Canine H3N2 influenza was first identified in Asia in 2006 and 2007, and likely came from an avian flu virus. It was first discovered in the U.S. in 2015 among Chicago-area dogs, and has since infected some cats as well. (As if they needed another reason to hate dogs.)

As a pet owner, there are steps you can take to protect your pup from the flu. You can get your dog vaccinated, for one—a dog flu vaccine hit the market in 2016. The two-dose shot takes a few weeks to fully kick in, and a booster shot is required each year. It's in your pet's best interest to get the shot, Moore says, as they can easily catch the flu at the groomers, the kennel, or while traveling.

If you see symptoms, you should take your pet to the vet for treatment, make sure it gets plenty of rest, and quarantine it for three to four weeks to prevent the illness from spreading. And make sure to watch out for signs of pneumonia or dehydration, which may require additional lines of treatment. One big worry, according to Dr. Moore, is that the dog will contract a secondary bacterial infection. This can be deadly, so some vets preemptively treat influenza-stricken canines with antibiotics.

You don't need to worry about yourself, though. No reports exist of humans catching canine influenza— although, since viruses are ever-morphing entities, experts don’t rule out the possibility. And if you own other dogs, your home can be sterilized with a bleach solution, although canine influenza viruses typically only survive in the environment for up to 48 hours.

[h/t Newsweek]

6 Fun Backgrounds to Use on Your Next Video Call

You might be stuck in the living room, but it doesn't have to look like it.
You might be stuck in the living room, but it doesn't have to look like it.
Ridofranz/iStock via Getty Images

If you’re struggling to find a perfectly decorated wall in your house to serve as the backdrop for your video calls with friends, family, and coworkers, we have good news: Video conferencing platform Zoom lets you customize your very own virtual background.

To do it, log into your Zoom account, go to “Settings” on the left side of your screen, and choose the "Meeting" tab. Scroll down to the “In Meeting (Advanced)” section, and then scroll down farther to make sure the “Virtual background” option is enabled. After that, open the Zoom application on your desktop, click on the “Settings” wheel in the upper right corner, and go to “Virtual Background.” There are a few automatic options, but you can choose your own image from your computer files by clicking on the plus-sign icon.

Now, the only thing left to do is decide which image will best set the tone for your next video call. From the New York Public Library’s Rose Reading Room to Schitt’s Creek’s Rosebud Motel, here are six of our favorites.

1. The Rosebud Motel lobby from Schitt’s Creek

schitt's creek rose motel lobby
It's not the Ritz-Carlton.

You can imagine that David is just out of frame, doing his best to carry on a silent—albeit with lots of expressive gesturing—conversation with Stevie at the front desk. (More Schitt's Creek backgrounds here.)

2. Carl and Ellie’s house from Up

carl and ellie's house from up
Balloons not included.
Walt Disney Pictures

If you’re hoping to create a calming atmosphere, look no further than the cozy little sitting room where Carl and Ellie grew old together in 2009's Up. (More Pixar backgrounds here.)

3. The attic study from Knives Out

knives out attic study
Nothing bad has ever happened here.

If your own study isn’t quite teeming with intriguing souvenirs and leather-bound volumes, feel free to borrow this one from the mansion in 2019’s Knives Out. (More Knives Out backgrounds here.)

4. The USS Enterprise from Star Trek

star trek's uss enterprise bridge
A great way to get your coworkers to fess up to being huge Trekkies., Twitter

Blame your spotty internet connection on the fact that you’re traveling through the galaxy at the speed of light with this background from the bridge of Star Trek’s USS Enterprise. (More Star Trek backgrounds here.)

5. The New York Public Library’s Rose Reading Room

new york public library reading room
You reserve the right to shush any coworkers who forgot to mute themselves.
New York Public Library

Bibliophiles who can’t make it to the library can still pay a virtual visit to the sumptuous Rose Main Reading Room at the New York Public Library’s iconic Fifth Avenue location. (More New York Public Library backgrounds here.)

6. The Werk Room from RuPaul’s Drag Race

rupaul's drag race werk room
Sashay away from the screen if you're taking a bathroom break during the call.

Dazzle your coworkers by calling in from the vibrant room where all the magic—and most of the drama—happens on RuPaul’s Drag Race. If you happen to be decked out in an ensemble made entirely of things you found at the Dollar Store, even better. (More RuPaul's Drag Race backgrounds here.)

You Can Now Order—and Donate—Girl Scout Cookies Online

It's OK if you decide to ignore the recommended serving size on a box of these beauties.
It's OK if you decide to ignore the recommended serving size on a box of these beauties.
Girl Scouts

Girl Scouts may have temporarily suspended both cookie booths and door-to-door sales to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be deprived of your annual supply of everyone’s favorite boxed baked goods. Instead, you can now order Thin Mints, Tagalongs, and all the other classic cookies online—or donate them to local charities.

When you enter your ZIP code on the “Girl Scouts Cookie Care” page, it’ll take you to a digital order form for the nearest Girl Scouts organization in your area. Then, simply choose your cookies—which cost $5 or $6 per box—and check out with your payment and shipping information. There’s a minimum of four boxes for each order, and shipping fees vary based on quantity.

Below the list of cookies is a “Donate Cookies” option, which doesn’t count toward your own order total and doesn’t cost any extra to ship. You get to choose how many boxes to donate, but the Girl Scouts decide which kinds of cookies to send and where exactly to send them (the charity, organization, or group of people benefiting from your donation is listed on the order form). There’s a pretty wide range of recipients, and some are specific to healthcare workers—especially in regions with particularly large coronavirus outbreaks. The Girl Scouts of Greater New York, for example, are sending donations to NYC Health + Hospitals, while the Girl Scouts of Western Washington have simply listed “COVID-19 Responders” as their recipients.

Taking their cookie business online isn’t the only way the Girl Scouts are adapting to the ‘stay home’ mandates happening across the country. They’ve also launched “Girl Scouts at Home,” a digital platform filled with self-guided activities so Girl Scouts can continue to learn skills and earn badges without venturing farther than their own backyard. Resources are categorized by grade level and include everything from mastering the basics of coding to building a life vest for a Corgi (though the video instructions for that haven’t been posted yet).

“For 108 years, Girl Scouts has been there in times of crisis and turmoil,” Girl Scouts of the USA CEO Sylvia Acevedo said in a press release. “And today we are stepping forward with new initiatives to help girls, their families, and consumers connect, explore, find comfort, and take action.”

You can order cookies here, and explore “Girl Scouts at Home” here.