Canine Influenza-What You Need to Know

posted: by: Dawn, RVT Tags: "Clinic Specials" "News" 

If you'¬ôre a dog owner, then the recent news stories about the new strain of Canine Influenza, or Canine Flu, have probably caught your attention.  Here's some information about Canine Flu and the current vaccine 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 influezna is considered low at less than 10%.

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.

Canine Influenza was first discovered in the United States in 2004 as the H3N8 strain.  It began at Greyhound race tracks in Florida and spread up the east coast.  The current strain of Canine Influenza which caused the recent outbreak in Chicago was identified as H3N2, and there has been one confirmed case in Ohio (although we do not know where in Ohio).  This strain may infect cats, but there's no evidence of transmission to other species or to humans.  The H3N8 strain has not been passed to any other animal species.

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 H3N8, and it was recommended for dogs in and around the high risk area.  While the vaccine may not completely prevent a dog from becoming infected with H3N8, it reduced the severity and duration of the illness, as well as the length of time the dog was contagious.  Suburban carries this vaccine, but the majority of our canine patients have not been in the risk group needing this vaccine (although a few local kennels required it of their boarders).  It's not known if the current H3N8 vaccine offers any protection against the H3N2 strain.  Dogs who have received the vaccine and later become infected with H3N2 have not been as sick as dogs who have never had the vaccine.

Suburban Animal Clinic is happy to talk with you about your dog's risk for Canine Influenza and if the vaccine should be considered.  This vaccine is 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 area, you should consider the vaccine as well.  The CIV vaccine is a series of 2 injections, 3-4 weeks apart, then boostered annually.

If you are concerned about your dog's risk for Canine Influenza, please contact us.

Suburban Animal Clinic is located in West Columbus off I-70 near I-270.  Suburban Animal Clinic serves Galloway, Hilltop, West Side, Georgesville, West Jefferson, Grove CityGrandviewUpper Arlington (including OSU Campus area), Hilliard and Dublin.

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