If you're a dog owner, you may have heard about Canine Flu, either from the news, online sources, or friends. Here's some information about Canine Flu and the current vaccines available.
Canine Influenza is caused by an influenza A virus which is highly contagious among and spreads easily between dogs. It's commonly spread through direct contact, coughing, sneezing, and contaminated objects such as cages, collars, leashes, food/water bowls, and other surfaces. In other words, it's spread in a similar way that people spread the common cold.
Symptoms of canine influenza resemble kennel cough, or tracheobronchitis, and can include a persistent cough, nasal discharge, fever, eye discharge, lethargy, and decreased appetite. Dogs can be infected with the virus and contagious, but not be showing any signs yet, which makes it difficult to isolate the sick dogs before they can spread the disease. Almost all dogs exposed to the canine influenza virus will become infected, and 80% of those infected will become sick. Most dogs recover within 2-3 weeks. Secondary bacterial infections can develop and may cause a more severe illness or lead to pneumonia. The fatality rate of canine influenza is considered low at less than 10%.
Like kennel cough, treatment of canine influenza is largely supportive care. Patients will be closely monitored for secondary infection and dehydration. Medications prescribed may include antibiotics for secondary bacterial infections, anti-inflammatory medications for fever or pain, and IV fluids if the patient is dehydrated (this would require hospitalization). More severe cases may require a hospital stay. Cough suppressants are used only if the patient is coughing to the point that it cannot get any rest.
Influenza was first discovered in the
Testing for CIV is tricky as it must be done early in the illness. A nasal or throat swab can be tested less than 4 days into the illness, or a blood test can be done during the first week of illness. A later sample may only tell you that your dog was at some point infected with the virus.
A vaccine was developed for both H3N8 & H3N2, and they are recommended for dogs in and around the high risk area. While the vaccines may not completely prevent a dog from becoming infected with canine flu, it may reduce the severity and duration of the illness, as well as the length of time the dog was contagious (very similar to how the kennel cough vaccine works). Suburban carries these vaccines, but the majority of our canine patients have not been in the risk group needing these vaccines (although a few local kennels require them for their boarders). Dogs whom have received the vaccines and later become infected with canine flu have not been as sick as dogs who have never had the vaccines.
Suburban Animal Clinic is happy to talk with you about your dog's risk for Canine Influenza and if the vaccines should be considered. These vaccines are recommended primarily for dogs who board, go to the groomer, doggie daycare, or to dog parks or pet stores where many other dogs congregate or pass through. If you are traveling in or around the endemic areas, you should consider the vaccine as well. The CIV vaccines are a series of 2 injections, 3-4 weeks apart, then boostered annually.
When considering the risk of exposure for your dog and deciding if you should vaccinate, consider these few things:
a) where is your dog in direct contact with other dogs and where are those dogs from?
b) droplets containing the virus become aerosolized from coughs, barks, and sneezes
c) the virus is easily spread on objects and people and is viable for up to 48 hours on surfaces
So even if your dog is not in direct contact with another dog, he could still be exposed anywhere other dogs have been, including rest stops while traveling.
If you are concerned about your dog's risk for Canine Influenza, please contact us.
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