Canine Influenza

Canine Influenza

There’s the bird flu, the swine flu, and the plain old flu. And then there’s the dog flu.

Also known as canine influenza, the dog flu is cause by a particular strain of the influenza virus that can be passed very easily between dogs. Luckily, even though it’s similar to the flu in humans, it isn’t zoonotic, meaning it can’t be transmitted from pet to parent. It’s important to note while canine influenza can stand alone, it is often involved with other infections that combine to cause what’s known as “kennel cough.” While there have been outbreaks of pure canine influenza virus throughout the world, it has only recently been identified.

For the most part, dog flu infections are mild and dogs are able to recover in a couple of weeks. Sometimes, however, the infection can become severe.

Risks and Symptoms
As you might expect, dog flu symptoms are similar to those caused by human influenza – coughing, runny nose, aches, and fever. Dogs can pick it up other dogs through direct contact, contaminated bowls or toys, or even by touching you after you’ve touched an infected dog.

Any dog that is around lots of other dogs is at risk for the dog flu. That means that if your dog visits dog parks, participates in dog shows, or is regularly boarded, he will have a higher risk of infection. Most facilities take special precautions to prevent the spread of contagious diseases such as dog flu or kennel cough, but that doesn’t mean your dog isn’t at risk.

Dogs with canine influenza can show a variety of symptoms. While some infected dogs may not show any symptoms at all, they are still contagious. A small percentage of dogs will have a harder time with the virus and may develop high fevers or even pneumonia.

Signs and symptoms to look for include:

  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Lack of appetite
  • Coughing
  • Runny Nose

Diagnosis and Treatment
If you think your pooch may have canine influenza, call your veterinarian as soon as you can. And don’t be insulted: because the dog flu is so contagious, your veterinarian may ask you to leave your dog in the car until the staff has been notified of your arrival, and you may need to bring your dog into the clinic through an alternate door. This is only done to prevent other pets from getting sick.

Once your dog is inside, your veterinarian will run a blood test or a PCR test, which involves swabbing your dog’s oral cavity. These tests can identify the presence of canine influenza. virus. However, because other conditions can cause similar symptoms, your veterinarian may want to run some additional tests, such as:

  • Chemistry tests to evaluate kidney, liver, and pancreatic function, as well as sugar levels
  • Electrolyte tests to ensure your dog isn’t dehydrated or suffering from an electrolyte imbalance
  • A complete blood count to screen your pet for infection, inflammation, or anemia and other blood-related conditions
  • Urine tests to screen for urinary tract infection and other diseases, and to evaluate the ability of the kidneys to concentrate urine
  • Screening tests to rule out certain infectious diseases
  • X-rays to check the heart and lungs

There’s no specific treatment for canine influenza, and like the human flu, it has to run its course, which could take a few weeks. Most dogs with mild symptoms won’t need any treatment, though dogs with more severe symptoms may need supportive care through fluids, supplemental feedings, or even antibiotics in the event of a secondary infection such as pneumonia.

How can you keep your dog from contracting canine influenza? Be aware of any outbreaks in your area and react accordingly. If you happen to come in contact with a dog that seems to have a respiratory illness, wash your hands and change your clothes before touching your dog. In addition, keep toys and bowls clean.

When it comes to boarding, ask your veterinarian for a recommended boarding facility. Make sure to ask the facility staff if they have had any outbreaks of infectious diseases like canine influenza or kennel cough.
If your dog does have the canine influenza virus, it’s important to keep him at home, away from other dogs, until he has fully recovered. There’s also a vaccine available to control the spread of the virus and minimize it’s impacted on infected dogs, though it may not completely prevent your dog from getting the dog flu.

If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian – they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.

Dog Flu Prevention Tips

Keeping your dog up to date on their vaccines is one of the best ways to help prevent them from contracting the dog flu virus.

There are vaccines for both the H3N8 and H3N2 strains of dog flu. We suggest talking with your veterinarian regarding these vaccines, especially if you plan on boarding your dog, visiting local dog parks, traveling, or scheduling your dog for doggy daycare.

We also suggest washing your hands thoroughly after coming into contact with dogs you do not know and try to avoid letting your dog drink from community water bowls.

And remember, if you think your dog is exhibiting any symptoms of dog flu, contact your veterinarian immediately.

How is canine influenza transmitted?

This virus can spread from one dog to another through direct contact with respiratory secretions (coughing and sneezing) and contact with contaminated objects (toys, bedding, food/water bowls, etc.). In general, the H3N2 strain has been shown to be contagious longer than the H3N8 strain, two weeks or more after first showing signs of illness. The virus can survive in the environment for up to two days and on hands or clothing for up to 24 hours. Regular handwashing (with soap and water), as well as cleaning and disinfecting clothing and other items (with household detergengents and disinfectants) can help prevent transmission.

Last week the Anti-Cruelty Society in Chicago announced that it was suspending adoptions of dogs from its facility for three to four weeks because several cases of canine influenza had been identified there. The measure was taken to prevent spread of the virus to dogs in the Chicago area.

Dr. Ashley Mitek, companion animal Extension veterinarian at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine, compiled information to address concerns that Illinois pet owners may have about the canine influenza virus.

For additional information, please contact your local veterinarian.

Watch the video: When to worry about your Dog Coughing and Sneezing!