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

iStock
iStock

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]

12 Creative Ways to Spend Your FSA Money Before the Deadline

stockfour/iStock via Getty Images
stockfour/iStock via Getty Images

If you have a Flexible Spending Account (FSA), chances are, time is running out for you to use that cash. Depending on your employer’s rules, if you don’t spend your FSA money by the end of the grace period, you potentially lose some of it. Lost cash is never a good thing.

For those unfamiliar, an FSA is an employer-sponsored spending account. You deposit pre-tax dollars into the account, and you can spend that money on a number of health care expenses. It’s kind of like a Health Savings Account (HSA), but with a few big differences—namely, your HSA funds roll over from year to year, so there’s no deadline to spend it all. With an FSA, though, most of your funds expire at the end of the year. Bummer.

The good news is: The law allows employers to roll $500 over into the new year and also offer a grace period of up to two and a half months to use that cash (March 15). Depending on your employer, you might not even have that long, though. The deadline is fast approaching for many account holders, so if you have to use your FSA money soon, here are a handful of creative ways to spend it.

1. Buy some new shades.

Head to the optometrist, get an eye prescription, then use your FSA funds to buy some new specs or shades. Contact lenses and solution are also covered.

You can also buy reading glasses with your FSA money, and you don’t even need a prescription.

2. Try acupuncture.

Scientists are divided on the efficacy of acupuncture, but some studies show it’s useful for treating chronic pain, arthritis, and even depression. If you’ve been curious about the treatment, now's a good time to try it: Your FSA money will cover acupuncture sessions in some cases. You can even buy an acupressure mat without a prescription.

If you’d rather go to a chiropractor, your FSA funds cover those visits, too.

3. Stock up on staples.

If you’re running low on standard over-the-counter meds, good news: Most of them are FSA-eligible. This includes headache medicine, pain relievers, antacids, heartburn meds, and anything else your heart (or other parts of your body) desires.

There’s one big caveat, though: Most of these require a prescription in order to be eligible, so you may have to make an appointment with your doctor first. The FSA store tells you which over-the-counter items require a prescription.

4. Treat your feet.

Give your feet a break with a pair of massaging gel shoe inserts. They’re FSA-eligible, along with a few other foot care products, including arch braces, toe cushions, and callus trimmers.

In some cases, foot massagers or circulators may be covered, too. For example, here’s one that’s available via the FSA store, no prescription necessary.

5. Get clear skin.

Yep—acne treatments, toner, and other skin care products are all eligible for FSA spending. Again, most of these require a prescription for reimbursement, but don’t let that deter you. Your doctor is familiar with the rules and you shouldn’t have trouble getting a prescription. And, as WageWorks points out, your prescription also lasts for a year. Check the rules of your FSA plan to see if you need a separate prescription for each item, or if you can include multiple products or drug categories on a single prescription.

While we’re on the topic of faces, lip balm is another great way to spend your FSA funds—and you don’t need a prescription for that. There’s also no prescription necessary for this vibrating face massager.

6. Fill your medicine cabinet.

If your medicine cabinet is getting bare, or you don’t have one to begin with, stock it with a handful of FSA-eligible items. Here are some items that don’t require a prescription:

You can also stock up on first aid kits. You don’t need a prescription to buy those, and many of them come with pain relievers and other medicine.

7. Make sure you’re covered in the bedroom.

Condoms are FSA-eligible, and so are pregnancy tests, monitors, and fertility kits. Female contraceptives are also covered when you have a prescription.

8. Prepare for your upcoming vacation.

If you have a vacation planned this year, use your FSA money to stock up on trip essentials. For example:

9. Get a better night’s sleep.

If you have trouble sleeping, sleep aids are eligible, though you’ll need a prescription. If you want to try a sleep mask, many of them are eligible without a prescription. For example, there’s this relaxing sleep mask and this thermal eye mask.

For those nights you’re sleeping off a cold or flu, a vaporizer can make a big difference, and those are eligible, too (no prescription required). Bed warmers like this one are often covered, too.

Your FSA funds likely cover more than you realize, so if you have to use them up by the deadline, get creative. This list should help you get started, and many drugstores will tell you which items are FSA-eligible when you shop online.

10. Go to the dentist.

While basics like toothpaste and cosmetic procedures like whitening treatments aren’t FSA eligible, most of the expenses you incur at your dentist’s office are. That includes co-pays and deductibles as well as fees for cleanings, x-rays, fillings, and even the cost of braces. There are also some products you can buy over-the-counter without ever visiting the dentist. Some mouthguards that prevent you from grinding your teeth at night are eligible, as are cleaning solutions for retainers and dentures.

11. Try some new gadgets.

If you still have some extra cash to burn, it’s a great time to try some expensive high-tech devices that you’ve been curious about but might not otherwise want to splurge on. The list includes light therapy treatments for acne, vibrating nausea relief bands, electrical stimulation devices for chronic pain, cloud-connected stethoscopes, and smart thermometers.

12. Head to Amazon.

There are plenty of FSA-eligible items available on Amazon, including items for foot health, cold and allergy medication, eye care, and first-aid kits. Find out more details on how to spend your FSA money on Amazon here.

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This All-in-One Storage Solution Can Be Used at Home or Carried on the Go

RUX/Indiegogo
RUX/Indiegogo

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Whether you're looking for a durable storage solution for your garage or a roomy pack for a long camping trip, the collapsible RUX carrier can help keep your stuff safe and secure without taking up much room in your closet when you're done. And until December 10, you can support the project on Indiegogo.

The main idea of the RUX is to serve multiple purposes at once. You can carry it around like a backpack or duffle bag during a weekend trip outdoors, or you can use it as a stationary storage bin for your car or home. Despite being strong enough to hold your bulkiest gear, it only weighs around four pounds and is designed to be collapsible, so you can fold it up and slip it away afterwards. (Unfolded, the RUX comes in at 15.7 by 19.5 by 13.8 inches.)

And if you're looking to use it during more serious outdoor adventures, you can rest assured that its weatherproof construction will keep your stuff dry in the rain. There's even a window that allows you to double-check that your items are safe and sound.

RUX/Indiegogo

The RUX was created with sustainability and longevity in mind. Not only does the RUX have a lifetime warranty, but each component can also come off and be replaced easily so you can continue using the product no matter the problem. RUX is a member of 1% For The Planet, which is a group that gives back 1 percent of sales to environmental causes, even if they are not profitable.

There is still time to back the RUX campaign and reap the rewards. If you back $196, you’ll get your first RUX along with it. However, if you back $265, you’ll get one RUX, two divider totes, an EDC pouch, and two utility straps. If you back $449, you’ll get all the same things from the second level along with an extra RUX. If you want to back $515 or $725, you’ll get double or triple everything, respectively, from the second level.

The RUX campaign ends on December 10, so there is still time to back this product through Indiegogo. Shipments of RUX will hopefully start by June 2021.

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