What?! My Dog Can Get the Flu???

What is Canine Influenza?

Canine influenza is a highly contagious viral infection that mainly affects the respiratory system in dogs. There have been some cases reported in cats, however humans and most other animals are not affected. The two main strains include H3N8, related to equine influenza and H3N2, related to avian influenza. The H3N8 influenza was first detected in 2004 in a group of greyhounds in Florida while the H3N2 influenza first appeared in the U.S. in 2015 in the Chicago area.

How is Canine Influenza Transmitted?

Canine influenza is transmitted through the droplets and aerosols of respiratory secretions when an infected dog coughs, sneezes or barks. Dogs are at a high risk of becoming infected if in close proximity to an influenza positive dog. Canine influenza can also be transmitted through fomites (objects that carry infection), such as clothing, food bowls, toys, leashes, furniture, grooming equipment, etc. The virus is able to live on surfaces, such as countertops or floors for up to 48 hours as well as up to 12 hours on an individual’s hands.

Clinical Symptoms Include...

  • persistent cough
  • oculonasal discharge (eyes and nose)
  • difficulty breathing
  • loss of appetite
  • anorexia
  • sneezing
  • lethargy
  • fever
  • secondary pneumonia

How is Canine Influenza Diagnosed?

Canine influenza can be diagnosed through serological testing or PCR. Serological testing involves sending serum collected from a blood sample to the lab to be evaluated for the presence of antibodies against influenza. A polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is a method of testing used to identify the matrix protein gene in any Influenza A virus, including H3N8 and H3N2. For canine influenza a swab of the nasal cavity is performed and sent out to the lab.

What are the Treatment Options?

Treatment largely consists of treating secondary infections and pneumonia if present, as well as supportive care.  Antibiotics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories and fluids may be utilized depending on the patient’s symptoms. Dogs usually recover within 2-3 weeks. To prevent transmission, it is very important to isolate your dog from other dogs and cats until the condition has resolved. Make sure to wash your clothes before coming in contact with another dog and frequently wash your hands, especially in between touching an infected dog and a healthy one. 

Is Canine Influenza Preventable?

A canine influenza vaccine is available. It is not a core vaccine, but is recommended for “at risk” groups which include dogs that are frequently in close contact with others, such as dog parks, daycare or boarding facilities.

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