A recent outbreak of canine influenza in the United States has left pet owners worried about their pets catching the virus. The disease is highly contagious and can spread when dogs come into contact with other canines.

The good news, however, is that cases of the influenza can be prevented if pet owners take a little precaution. Here's what they can do to protect their pets against the virus.

What Is Canine Influenza?

Canine influenza or dog flu is a highly contagious infection that can affect both dogs and cats but not humans. In the United States, two strains of the virus have been identified: H3N2 and H3N8.

The canine influenza reportedly first appeared in the country in the early 2000s. Last year, there were a number of outbreaks related to the H3N2 strain, which appeared in Florida, Texas, and Georgia, among other states.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Foundation or AVMF, symptoms of the infection usually do not appear in 20 percent of the dogs, which makes it even more dangerous and more difficult for pet owners to detect if something is wrong.

When symptoms do appear, however, they usually manifest as flu-like illness. Dogs infected by the virus would experience a fever, a runny nose, sneezing, nasal discharge, and, soft, moist, or dry cough. The cough can persist for 10 to 21 days despite any treatment.

Also, it is important to note that the canine influenza is not diagnosed based on symptoms alone as they are similar to common respiratory infections. To confirm whether or not a pet is infected with the virus, blood testing is required.

How Can Pet Owners Protect Their Pets?

Canine influenza cases in pets can be prevented if pet owners take a little precaution. Also, in order to protect one's pets from catching the virus, one needs to understand how the virus is transmitted.

The first thing pet owners should do is to keep their pets away from other canines, as the canine influenza can be transmitted just by sniffing noses.

The disease can also spread through different objects and people that have been in contact with infected dogs.

It is said that an infection can survive on hard surfaces for up to two days, on clothing for over a day, and on the surface of one's hands for around 12 hours. Because of this, it is very important for pet owners to clean and disinfect objects and also wash their hands and clothing to avoid spreading the virus.

Finally, the most effective way for pet owners to protect their loved ones against the virus is vaccination. Veterinarians said infected pets are getting very sick and have recommended vaccination for non-infected pets.

The vaccine, however, may not work against the virus when the dog is already coughing. Sick dogs, instead, should receive medication, such as antibiotics and supportive health care.

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