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Canine Influenza

What is canine influenza?

Canine influenza virus (CIV) is primarily the result of two influenza strains: H3N8 from an equine origin and H3N2 from an avian origin. Both of these strains were previously known to infect species other than dogs, but are now able to infect and spread among canines. There is no “season” for the canine influenza virus, and infections may occur year-round.

What are the symptoms of canine influenza?

It takes about two to four days (incubation period) for clinical signs to develop after contact with the virus. Infected dogs are most contagious during this period before symptoms occur, making rapid transmission likely, and they continue to spread the virus for up to 20 days.

Symptoms of canine influenza include coughing, sneezing, low-grade fever, lethargy, and eye or nasal discharge. Pneumonia and labored breathing may also develop in serious cases. Signs of canine influenza are similar to symptoms of kennel cough but more severe.

How can I differentiate between canine influenza and kennel cough, and when should I take my dog to the veterinarian?

Many cases of canine influenza may be mistaken as a kennel cough or other infections in the canine infectious respiratory disease (CIRD) complex. It is difficult to distinguish CIV from kennel cough and CIRD, therefore dogs with clinical symptoms should be seen by a veterinarian.

How is canine flu spread?

Canine influenza is spread through sneezing, coughing, nasal discharge, and contaminated objects like bowls, leashes, collars, clothing, skin, and kennel walls and floors. The disease can survive on skin and hands for 12 hours, on clothing for 24 hours, and on surfaces for up to 48 hours.

Older dogs and ones with heart and respiratory conditions are at particular risk for CIV. Dogs with short, flat faces such as Boston Terriers, Boxers, Pekingese, Pugs, and Shih Tzus are also at a higher risk.

Since CIV is a new disease for dogs, they are all susceptible to infection. If your dog is exposed to the virus, there is a high chance they will become infected and develop clinical signs. Although most infected dogs will only develop a mild form of canine influenza and recover without complications, some dogs may develop severe, life-threatening pneumonia.

Which dogs should get the vaccine, and what are the benefits and risks?

The decision to vaccinate is based on each individual’s risk and lifestyle. Dogs who travel a lot, are kenneled, or interact frequently with other dogs should seriously be considered for vaccination against canine influenza. At-risk breeds and dogs with respiratory or heart conditions should also be considered.

To date, there have been no reported issues with the CIV vaccination.

It’s important to note that the vaccine cannot completely prevent the disease. However, it may reduce the severity and duration of clinical signs associated with infection, which is especially important for at-risk dogs and to help prevent the spread of outbreaks.

Talk to your veterinarian to determine if vaccinating against canine influenza is right for your dog.

What is the treatment for canine influenza?

As with nearly all viral infections, treatment for canine influenza is largely supportive. Your pet must be housed in a dry, warm area free from other dogs, kept well-hydrated, and fed a high-quality diet during illness. Dogs exposed to the virus should be isolated for four weeks to prevent further spread.

Dogs that develop pneumonia may require hospitalization, intravenous fluids and medications, and potent broad-spectrum antibiotics. Most dogs fully recover within two to three weeks.

It is important to consult with your veterinarian to determine the best course of treatment.

What can I do to prevent my infected dog from spreading canine influenza?

Virtually 100 percent of dogs exposed to CIV will become infected. Because of this, it’s important that owners of infected canines isolate them from other dogs and keep them away from trips to the groomers and parks and prevent them from contacting other dogs during walks and in kennels.

After contact with infected dogs, you must thoroughly clean hands, clothing, equipment, and floors with soap and water.

Can humans get the flu from a dog with canine influenza?

CIV poses no threat to humans and is being closely monitored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and their partners. If your dog does contract CIV, you can feel comfortable giving it plenty of care and your veterinarian’s recommended treatments without worry of being infected yourself.