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Is Your Dog Coughing And Sneezing?

dog about to sneeze

It's December, and that means the beginning of flu season for us humans. But what about your dog—is he at risk of getting the flu, too? Unfortunately, the answer is yes. If your dog is coughing and sneezing, he could very well be suffering from canine influenza, also known as 'dog flu.'

Canine influenza is a relatively new disease, similar to the equine (horse) flu virus, to which dogs have no natural immunity. Researchers didn't seriously start to study the characteristics of this virus until a 2004 outbreak at many Greyhound dog tracks.

Highly contagious, the canine flu virus spreads swiftly in confined areas, such as kennels. Medical experts estimate that about 80% of healthy dogs that come in contact with infected dogs will get canine flu, and puppies and older dogs are even more susceptible. While there are no known cases of canine flu being passed on to humans or cats, humans who come in contact with an infected dog can pass the flu on to their dog.

Know the symptoms

The symptoms of dog flu are often mistaken for kennel cough, a canine illness that is caused by the Bordetella bacteria. Both diseases can cause coughing and gagging for up to three weeks, but dogs with canine flu often have additional symptoms:

  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Fever
  • Poor appetite
  • Lethargy

What to do if you suspect your dog has the flu

If your dog has a persistent cough lasting more than several days, or develops a thick, yellow nasal discharge, or becomes lethargic, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian. If canine influenza is suspected, your vet might administer fluids if your dog is becoming dehydrated, and prescribe medication to treat his symptoms.

How to protect your dog

Keep your dog away from other dogs that are coughing or ill. Wash your hands well after handling or petting any dog, especially those showing signs of illness. Likewise, if your dog is coughing, keep him isolated from other dogs, and do not take him out to parks or areas where other dogs could get exposed.

Since a vaccine for the equine flu now exists, veterinary researchers are hopeful that dog vaccinations including a dog flu vaccine may soon be available. By next winter, getting a flu shot for the dog may well be on your 'to do' list.

  • When Should You Switch Your Senior Dog to Soft Food?

    smiling lab sitting in front of brick wall

    As your dog ages, you’ll likely notice changes in your best pal’s energy levels, routine and even muzzle. Older pets may require adjustments to help them get around, exercise and live their best life as a senior. One important aspect of caring for a dog entering their golden years is diet.

    When it comes to diet, every dog has unique, individual needs, regardless of age. So, there's no one easy answer to the question of soft food versus hard food. Both types of food can provide your dog with the nutrition they need — as long as you feed your dog a high-quality dog food that’s nutritionally balanced and complete.

    two dogs eating from two bowls

    Signs Your Senior Dog May Benefit from Wet Food

    If your dog has very specific health concerns, such as aging joints or weight issues, consult with your vet for more information about what type of food best addresses your dog's needs. That being said, there are a few reasons why you may consider switching your senior dog to soft food.

    fluffy brown dog yawning showing teeth

    Teeth Sensitivity

    As your dog gets older, their teeth may become more sensitive, which can make chewing kibble more difficult and even uncomfortable. Switching to a soft food can help to alleviate your pet’s oral discomfort when eating.

    However, if your dog is experiencing serious pain at mealtime from a condition like tooth decay or gingivitis, switching to soft food won't remedy the problem. Make sure you talk to your vet about oral care and dental treatment.

    Digestion Aid

    Digestion begins in the mouth with saliva, so if your dog has a tendency to scarf down meals, they may not be adequately chewing the food or adding enough saliva to it. Soft food can aid with digestion because it's more easily chewed.

    Hydration Help

    It’s no surprise that wet food has a higher moisture content when compared to dry kibble. If your senior pup is prone to urinary-tract issues or simply needs a little help staying hydrated, canned dog food may be a good choice.

    girl kissing older dog on the head

    Slower Metabolism

    Aging dogs tend to have a slower metabolic rate compared to their younger years, which puts them at a higher risk of becoming overweight or obese. Many nutritionally balanced wet dog foods offer high protein content with fewer carbs than dry food, which can benefit older dogs with slower metabolism. Always talk to your vet if you have concerns about your pup’s weight.

    Picky Eaters

    While wet food may be less than appetizing to humans, the opposite is true for dogs! If your aging best friend has started turning their snout up to dry food, wet food tends to be more appealing to picky eaters. Mixing wet food and kibble offers your pup a variety of flavors and textures; try adding wet food as a topper on dry food for a real treat!

    Whether you choose dry food, soft food  or a mix of both, ask your vet before making any transition. And when it's time to switch your dog's food, remember to do it slowly — even if it's the same brand and flavor — to help prevent stomach upset and allow your dog time to adjust.

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