What is Canine Influenza?
The Canine Influenza Virus (CIV), commonly referred to as Dog Flu, is a highly contagious, respiratory disease that causes coughing, nasal discharge, fever, and in more severe cases pneumonia.
The disease is spread by direct contact, or coming in contact with objects contaminated with the virus (i.e., water bowls, blankets, clothing, equipment, kennels, cages, etc.).
Canine Influenza is primarily found in areas where there is a high population/aggregation of dogs, such as kennels/boarding facilities, shelters, dog parks, grooming facilities, dog shows, and field trial events. The majority of infected dogs have a mild form of the disease, while some some dogs can be asymptomatic (showing no signs).
More severely affected dogs may develop pneumonia and may need to be hospitalized, treated with intravenous fluids, antibiotics and supportive care. There is a very small percentage of dogs that may succumb to the disease.
The dog flu virus was identified in Florida in 2004 when there was a severe respiratory outbreak in racing greyhounds. It was found that there was a mutation of the equine influenza virus that infected the dogs. This strain of canine influenza is called H3N8.
It has been discovered that another strain of the virus (H3N2) has been isolated in dogs being treated for CIV that has only been seen in Southern China and South Korea prior to the outbreak in Chicago. The H3N2 canine influenza virus can be more severe than the original virus (H3N8), and can cause infection and respiratory illness in cats, as well as dogs.
How is Canine Influenza confirmed?
- PCR testing (identifying DNA) — Collecting a swab of respiratory secretions within a few days of onset and submitting it to a lab.
- Blood Testing — Getting a blood sample within 1 week of symptoms, sending it to a lab to look for antibodies, then repeating the blood draw 2 - 3 weeks later to see if there is an 4 fold increase in antibody levels which is indicative of a true infection.
My dog has been diagnosed with CIV, now what?
Treatment depends on the severity of your pet's symptoms. In more mild cases, antibiotics are given to control secondary bacterial infections, antitussives, and isolation. More severe cases may need to be hospitalized with intravenous fluids and antibiotics. Infected dogs should be considered contagious for at least 14 days.
How do I keep my dog from getting the Dog Flu?
The best way to protect your pet from the flu is to prevent your pet from interacting with other dogs. Refrain from going to dog parks and places where there is a large congregation of dogs. Contact your veterinarian and schedule an appointment to get the canine influenza vaccine. This is a 2-part vaccine, it will need to be boostered in 2 - 4 weeks after the first inoculation.
The vaccine will not prevent infection, but will reduce the severity and duration of the disease. Washing your hands, common household disinfectants and bleach are ways to decrease the the spread through contaminated objects.
Can I get the H3N8 virus?
To date, there hasn't been any cases of documented transmission to humans as the virus is specific for the host.
If you have any questions pertaining to the canine influenza virus, your pet is coughing, or you suspect that your dog has contracted the disease, please do not hesitate to call us at (708) 720-2400.