Just like humans, when outside temperatures lower, and bacteria begins circulating throughout the air, dogs are susceptible to numerous types of illnesses. The most common one, which can be likened to the human version of the “common cold”, is referred to as Bordetella Bronchiseptica – or in simpler terms, the “kennel cough”.
Kennel cough is caused when dogs inhale bacteria or virus particles into their respiratory tract, either through cold temperatures, exposure to crowded or poorly ventilated conditions, exposure to dust or cigarette smoke, or travel-induced stress. Kennel cough can be identified through exercise intolerance, a reduced appetite, running eyes with a tick, soupy liquid discharge that can dry up and become crusty, or swollen lymph nodes.
Kennel Cough Recovery
All these signs may seem detrimental to your dog, however kennel cough is not considered harmful and dogs are normally expected to recover within approximately 1-2 weeks, as long as they are well rested and kept warm. To speed up the recovery process, avoid walks or playtime as your dog will already be feeling lethargic and having them exercise will only worsen their cold. Allow your dog to rest in a heated area of your home or give them a blanket to lie with. Alternatively, you could consider purchasing a dog coat intended to keep them warm, or to purchase a toy such as the Little Buddy warm bear that will also help to keep your dog heated during the colder months. Always make sure you sanitise any bedding or clothing that your dog has come into contact with, to prevent any bacteria from spreading, and make sure you quarantine your infected pet from any other pets in your home as the sickness is extremely contagious and can be spread rapidly. You can also avoid the risk of kennel cough in your pet by ensuring your home is well ventilated and dust and dirt free. Make sure your pet is kept away from excessive levels of dust or cigarette smoke and use a harness instead of a collar to minimize coughing. Speaking to your veterinarian about vaccinations that may help to prevent kennel cough is another option you may consider taking prior to your dog contracting the illness.
Canine Influenza Virus (CIV)
The second type of flu in dogs – which is a little more complex than kennel cough – is the Canine Influenza Virus (CIV). If left untreated, CIV can lead to severe complications such as pneumonia, which can be fatal. There are two types of influenza. One is the H3N8 virus and the other is the H3N2 virus. The H3N8 virus is closely related to the virus that causes equine influenza. The H3N2 virus is believed to have resulted from the direct transfer of an avian influenza virus to dogs. There is currently a vaccination against H3N8 available, however all dogs are prone to canine flu infections regardless of age, breed or vaccine status. CIV is transmitted through a combination of aerosols, droplets, direct contact with respiratory sections, through dogs that are in close proximity to other affected dogs, or if uninfected dogs come into contact with contaminated objects. You can determine whether your dog has been infected with CIV if they are showing any symptoms of coughing, sneezing, variable fever, clear nasal discharge that progresses to thick, yellowish-green mucus, loss of appetite, lethargy, or rapid/difficult breathing. A veterinarian will be able to accurately diagnose your pet through either a physical examination or various tests but it is important you are familiar with these symptoms in order to seek medical advice immediately.
Canine Influenza Virus Recovery
When CIV is quickly diagnosed and treated, it should only last about 1-30 days and will prevent any further medical conditions from developing. While there are many remedies in which you can treat CIV such as anti-viral medications, bacterial medications, fluids to maintain hydration, warmth, and a quiet and comfortable area to rest in, CIV can also be treated through good nutrition. As your pet’s energy will decrease, it is vital you continue to feed them a nutritious diet to ensure they are on the road to recovery. Homemade foods are essential for their recovery, with chicken broth being an excellent choice for your ill dog. Containing protein, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals and collagen, the base of the broth is water and due to its delicious flavour, even dogs with a low appetite will be able to consume it. Even if your pet refuses to eat, do your best to keep their stomachs full and their body’s hydrated. Your vet will be able to recommend certain foods that won’t upset your dog’s stomach.
You can help prevent contamination by washing your clothes after being surrounded by other dogs. While humans themselves cannot catch the canine influenza virus, they can still carry the virus on their hands and clothing for up to twenty-four hours after being in contact with an infected dog. The virus can then be transferred onto their own pet without them even knowing about it. It is particularly important during the colder months that you maintain good hygiene and wash your hands regularly, not just for your own health, but for your dog’s too.
While it is good to be wary of the risks associated with colder temperatures, poor ventilation or coming into contact with other dogs, don’t be frightened by the idea that your dog may contract a cold or the flu. If you are familiar with what to look out for and you monitor your dog’s behaviour regularly, you will know whether something seems out of the ordinary in your pet. These days, there are multiple approaches in treating your dog, which makes taking them to the vet as soon as possible a crucial part of their recovery process. The quicker they can begin treatment the more comfortably they will be cured. If you do not seek medical advice you may be worsening your dog’s condition as each day goes by. If your dog has not yet been affected but you believe that they are prone to those viruses and you would like to minimise your chances as much as possible, speak to your veterinarian, as they will be able to recommend the appropriate procedures to follow. If you continue to prevent the flu through the various methods I have mentioned, or you are aware of the symptoms in case your dog does manage to catch the cold, by following what I have suggested you will constantly be prepared to fight against any sicknesses that are heading their way!