Dogs Are in the Midst of a Terrible Flu Season, Too

All this dog wants is some chicken soup and ‘The Crown.’
All this dog wants is some chicken soup and ‘The Crown.’ / Carol Yepes/Moment via Getty Images

With the country in the middle of what health experts have dubbed a triple threat of contagious illness this winter—coronavirus, flu, and RSV—it’s easy to forget that pets can get sick, too. As The New York Times points out, dogs are spreading more than holiday cheer.

Across the South, a number of dogs has been infected with H3N2, a strain of influenza unique to canines. The virus causes fever, loss of appetite, and a cough. While not normally serious, in a small percentage of dogs the illness may graduate to pneumonia.

What sparked the outbreak? Experts believe it’s due to dogs co-mingling again after a long stretch spent home with their owners during the coronavirus pandemic. As humans return to in-office work and travel, dogs are being boarded in kennels or pet day cares; shelters that once adopted dogs out to people looking for a home companion during lockdowns are filling up again.

A stay-at-home dog can be vulnerable, too, if they socialize with other dogs at dog parks or get exposed during a trip to the groomer.

According to the American Kennel Club, the infection can be transmitted when dogs are near an infected animal, through shared food and water bowls, and via contaminated items like crates. Almost all dogs will become infected once exposed, and roughly 80 percent will have symptoms. It takes two to three weeks for dogs to recover.

Fortunately, H3N2 isn’t able to be transmitted to humans. But that may be of little comfort to pet owners who don’t want to see a furry friend fall ill. There is a canine influenza vaccine available that covers both H3N2 and another strain, H3N8. Pet owners should discuss the vaccine with their veterinarian to determine if their dog’s socializing warrants vaccination.

[h/t The New York Times]