My Dog Got the Scary New Dog Flu

Pinki

Our sweet Pinki-dog on a good day

I’m glad to say we’re back from an unexpectedly long hiatus from our blog. However, as usual, things aren’t going to plan. My intention last week was to start writing a series of posts about our recent trip to Paris, but life had other ideas for me. First, my daughter and I managed to get food poisoning on our last night in Paris. This made our flight home extra fun (sarcasm intended). Then, when we arrived home, we discovered that our beloved German Shepherd, Pinki, caught a scary new dog flu. So, instead of writing, I’ve been dealing with a very sick dog and a recovering child (I wasn’t allowed to be sick).

What is this New Dog Flu?

Before we left on our trip to Paris, I had not even heard of this new dog flu. I keep Pinki up-to-date on her vaccines, so I thought we had nothing to worry about when I dropped her off at her boarding facility. Apparently, though, on the day we left news broke that a new strain of dog flu had shown up in Florida. I was on a plane over the Atlantic Ocean, so I never saw the news.

Your dog’s annual vaccines protect against one type of flu, but not this new one. This new strain, called H3N2, is also very contagious. According to our vet, if your dog is exposed to it, they will probably get it.

If you love your dog as much as we love our Pinki, it’s also very frightening. Pinki is really lethargic and won’t eat or drink normally. She basically just lays around all day. But her breathing really scared the crap out of me. She kept waking up in her sleep with this awful cough and would breathe like a child with the croup. Some dogs also get a runny nose, but Pinki didn’t.

When we took Pinki to the vet, she had a fever of 105, and her blood test showed a severe infection. Thank goodness she didn’t have pneumonia, though, since most dogs who die from this flu do so from pneumonia. Our vet said she could still develop it, though, so we are still in a touch-and-go situation for a few days.

How to Avoid It

The best way to keep your dog from getting this new flu is to get them vaccinated against it. When we got Pinki’s shots, our vet did not offer this vaccine because it wasn’t a problem in Florida yet. This vaccine isn’t included in the regular schedule, so you have to ask for it. Since this virus is now in 30 states, it’s probably a good idea to get it. Even if it’s not where you live, that doesn’t mean it won’t be soon.

If the new dog flu does show up in your community, it’s best to keep your dog away from areas where other dogs may be. This means no doggy parks, boarding facilities, dog shows, and even pet stores. And, since the virus can even live on inanimate objects for up to 14 hours, you shouldn’t let your dog around things that a sick dog might have touched. If you’ve been around a dog that might have been sick with the flu, I would even go so far as to recommend that you stay away from your own pets until you’ve changed clothes and removed your shoes. That’s how scary this is.

What to Do if Your Dog Gets It

Go to the vet. Immediately. Do not play around with this flu. We thought Pinki was okay to recover at home because she only had a mild cough at first. Within a day she was barely moving and refused to eat or drink. Had we known what we were dealing with, she could have received a precautionary round of antibiotics that might have prevented her infection. Fortunately, we reacted quickly when she started to go downhill. As I sit here feeding her ice chips, though, I wish we had gone to the vet sooner.

Most dogs will recover from this flu, which is good news, but you’re going to have to play dog nurse for a few days. You have to make sure your sick dog eats and drinks. We made ice cubes out of water and low-sodium chicken broth to get Pinki to take in more fluids. We also bought her some high-quality wet food and microwaved it for a few seconds to make it more irresistible (it worked). She has wanted to stay by my side since she became ill, so I keep a cup of ice chips nearby that I feed her throughout the day.

To help with her breathing, the vet also suggested that we put her in a steamy room for 10 minutes twice a day. To do this, I bring her in the bathroom while I take a hot shower. Fortunately, she has started eating and drinking again and appears to feel a little better. The antibiotics the vet prescribed are hopefully working to clear out the infection, too.

Isolation is Key

The most important thing to do if your dog gets this flu, though, is to keep them away from other dogs. Don’t board them, and only take them outside when absolutely necessary. This virus can be deadly, especially to older dogs and short-nosed breeds (like bulldogs and Pekingese). You’ll even need to let your vet know before you show up because they have to keep your dog isolated. We had to enter and leave through a back door so we wouldn’t come into contact with other dogs.

Please, please, please isolate your dog if they have any flu-like symptoms. If you want more information about this new dog flu, check out this information sheet from the University of Florida Veterinary College.

I hope to be back soon with more fun stuff about travel and parenting. In the meantime, I’ll be making broth ice cubes and spoon-feeding a 90-pound German Shepherd.

Pink is sick with the new dog flu

Poor, sick Pinki resting on her favorite blanket

 

 

 

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