It's practically impossible to make it through the winter months without worrying about, or at least hearing about, the flu. It's all anyone can talk about, honestly. But while you're scrubbing your hands every hour on the hour to keep flu germs at bay, there might be something that hasn't yet crossed your mind: Dogs can get the flu, too, and if you've got your own little fur baby at home, it's important to know how to keep 'em safe and healthy this season.
The 2018 winter season has marked one of the deadliest flu seasons in recent history, reaching all 50 states in the U.S. and taking the lives of at least 30 children, according to a recent report from TIME. As if that's not scary enough, there's apparently a canine flu that we need to stay wary of, in addition to our own flu.
The dog flu, also known as "canine influenza A H3N2 virus" (because we seriously needed a scarier name for it), was first identified in 2015, according to ABC News, and has infected dogs in nearly all 50 states since then.
Here's what you need to know about canine influenza to keep your precious floof safe and healthy this season.
The dog flu is spread in the same way that the human flu is spread: through close contact. A dog can catch the flu from another infected dog who is barking, sneezing, or coughing nearby, which is why keeping dogs at kennels may increase the risk of your pup contracting the flu.
What's more, symptoms can be similar as well: a persistent cough, sneezing, and high fever are all common symptoms for the dog flu, although these things can be a lot harder to detect in a dog rather than a human.
So far, there have been several concentrated flare-ups of canine influenza in California, Kentucky, Ohio, and Michigan, with over 100 diagnoses in the last 45 days alone, according to a geographic map created by the Cornell Veterinary School of Medicine.
It's important to note that the dog flu isn't seasonal, and it doesn't include some of the symptoms that the human flu does.
The human flu often reveals itself through an upset stomach, including nausea and vomiting, but the dog flu doesn't work the same way. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the most common signs your dog will show if infected with the flu are a runny nose, a cough, reduced appetite, eye discharge, and a lack of energy.
Of course, one of the biggest questions most people might have is whether or not the dog flu can be as deadly as the human flu. Exact numbers are hard to pin down, but USA Today reports that somewhere between roughly five and 10 percent of dogs with canine influenza may end up dying from the illness, while five to 20 percent of the U.S. population contracts the flu in any given year, and the death rate ranges in the tens of thousands, depending on the year and the strain of the virus.
If you think your dog might have the flu, the best thing that you can do is take your fur baby to the vet ASAP.
It's obviously harder for a dog to communicate their symptoms than a human, so it's up to you to pay attention to how your dog is looking and feeling.
If your dog isn't showing the symptoms, but this article made you nervous (hi, me too), then you can talk to your vet about getting your dog a flu vaccination. What's more, you can try to minimize the amount of time your pup spends at a kennel, thereby decreasing the chances a sick dog is going to infect your little pupper.
Dogs are the loyal, loving best friends that we barely deserve. It's on us to treat them well, take care of their physical and emotional well-being, and fill one of their toys with peanut butter from time to time.
BRB, googling "cat flu" for the next three hours.