Flu Symptoms and Treatment in Dogs (cont.)

5. How is dog flu treated?

Treatment for dog flu is very similar to that for people. Because antibiotics don't work on a virus, the usual advice is lots of rest and fluids. But antibiotics could be prescribed for secondary infections, Dubovi said.

6. Should my dog get the dog flu vaccine?

A dog flu vaccine, approved in the spring of 2009, is now available at veterinary offices. Dubovi said the vaccine won't prevent a dog from getting the virus, but it will lessen the severity and the duration of the disease. Whether or not to vaccinate is a personal choice, he said. "If I lived in New York City and I was getting ready to board my pet for the holidays, I'd definitely get the vaccine," Dubovi said. "But if I lived in Minneapolis, where there's never been a diagnosed case, I probably wouldn't use it."

Crawford said the vaccine consists of two shots, given three weeks apart. The shots contain the killed virus and help dogs build immunity to the virus. She said so far dogs don't seem to have adverse reactions to the vaccine.

For most dogs, the flu is little more than an inconvenience, Crawford said. "People really don't need to be freaked out about it. The public just needs to be aware that dogs can get the flu, too," Crawford said. "But it's very much like the flu people get. People just need to talk to their vet about their risk and whether their pet needs a vaccination."

7. Can dogs get swine flu?

Dubovi said there's no evidence that dogs get swine flu, or the H1N1 virus. But some dogs have contracted avian flu, and some cases have been fatal, he said.

SOURCES:

Cynda Crawford, DVM, PhD, clinical assistant professor of shelter medicine, Maddie's Shelter Medicine Program at the University of Florida.

Ruben O. Donis, PhD, chief of the molecular virology and vaccines branch at the CDC, Atlanta.

Edward Dubovi, PhD, professor of virology and director of the Virology Laboratory, Animal Health Diagnostic Center at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University.

Joy Dillon, Chihuahua breeder, Nashville.