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Can Dogs Get the Swine Flu?

October 14, 2009

Its all over the news and on everyone's minds - the Swine Flu pandemic. We know that it can be harmful to humans. The question is, can the H1N1 virus be harmful to our furry friends?

There is no clear cut answer, but if there were, it seems the answer would most likely be no.

According to Dr. Mike Richards of Mathews Veterinary Clinic in Mathews, Virginia, "I haven't heard of a case of a dog contracting swine flu, especially in this country," said Dr. Mike Richards. "Influenza research is changing; however, and it is recognized that dogs can get the flu. It is unlikely that a dog will get the swine flu, but there are reported cases of dogs getting the avian flu (bird flu). I would not be surprised to hear of a canine swine flu case eventually."
I was able to find just one report of an unconfirmed case of a dog contracting the H1N1 virus, which unfortunately proved to be fatal. The case took place a few years ago in Taiwan. Again, this case was unconfirmed.

Dr. Janet Tobiassen Crosby, DVM, states that there are two types of influenza viruses: Type A and Type B. The Type A viruses are found in humans and many types of animals, usually strains specific to that species. The type B viruses circulate widely among humans. Dogs and cats do have their own versions of influenza viruses. The canine influenza virus is an influenza Type A, known as the H3N8 virus.

Key Fact about Canine Influenza from the CDC: To date, there is no evidence of transmission of canine influenza virus from dogs to people and there has not been a single reported case of human infection with the canine influenza virus.

The good news is that a company based in Kenilworth, NJ called Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health announced in June that they have released the first vaccine for the canine influenza virus. The vaccine has been shown to reduce the incidence and severity of lung lesions, as well as the duration of coughing and viral shedding. It is administered under the skin in two doses, two and four weeks apart, and may be given to dogs that are 6 weeks of age or older.

Of course, in order to avoid spreading any type of virus, care should be always taken to use proper sanitation and personal hygiene in all cases of illness, and especially for the ever-changing influenza viruses.

According to Mohala Johnson of the Cheyenne Dogs Examiner, here is a list of some things you can do to help keep your immune system up to par. After all, if you don't take care of yourself, then who will take care of your dog?

~Wash your hands often
~Cover you nose and mouth if you sneeze or if someone around you does
~Be sure to eat a balanced diet
~Exercise (which you should already be doing with your dog)
~Stay hydrated, drink your fluids especially water, try drinking lemon water its good for your immune system, and you might like it.
~Get a full night sleep
~Take your vitamins, like vitamin C
~There is also a variety of food that you can eat to help you boost your immune system.

So, while dogs may be susceptible to their own version of influenza if not vaccinated, it seems that they are safe from Swine Flu for now, so hopefully this gives you some peace of mind. As always, if you suspect that your dog is sick, please contact your veterinarian directly for an examination and to discuss any questions.

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