Canine Influenza (Dog Flu)

A few years ago we were first presented with an infectious disease named “dog flu” or “canine influenza”.

It is highly contagious and is spread by direct dog-to-dog contact, aerosols of respiratory secretions, and contact with contaminated environments such as surfaces, food- and water bowls, collars/leashes as well as the hands and clothing of people who have handled infected dogs.

Virtually all dogs become infected when exposed to canine influenza. About 80 percent of these exposed dogs will show signs of infection, those that do not have symptoms can still spread the virus. It is a serious illness that is easily spread among dogs in shelters, daycares, boarding kennels, and dog parks.

In its early stages, it can be mistaken for kennel cough. Symptoms include persistent coughing, dry cough, fever, nasal discharge, lack of energy, and loss of appetite. Canine influenza can progress to bacterial pneumonia, which can be fatal to puppies, sick dogs, and older dogs. A small number of dogs with the virus have died from complications of the disease.

Since canine influenza is a virus treatment will focus on supportive care such as IV fluids and antibiotics for secondary bacterial infections.

If you made an appointment and your dog is showing symptoms such as coughing, nasal discharge, fever, or lethargy, we ask you to leave the dog in the vehicle temporarily and check in at the front desk for further instructions. Doctor Neumeister will either come outside for further evaluation or we will lead you and the dog through a separate entrance directly into our isolation ward.

If you are concerned regarding this flu outbreak we suggest that you keep your dog separated as much as possible until this outbreak calms down. The fewer contacts your dog has with another dog, the lesser the chance of it becoming infected.

One of the suspected canine influenza strains is caused by the H3N8 influenza virus and was first identified in racing greyhounds in Florida in 2004. It had been circulating in the greyhound population for at least five years prior to its identification. A vaccine for this particular strain is available – it will decrease the severity of the illness but does not prevent it. Now it seems that a different strain might be the cause of the current outbreak. The particular strain being researched seems to be related to the H3N2 influenza virus that is circulating in dogs in Asia. The Asian H3N2 strain has been shown to also infect cats. At this time there is no evidence of human risk, but due to the unpredictability of viruses, this is still under investigation.

The symptoms for both flu strains are the same.

A final diagnosis of the disease can only be confirmed through serologic testing or the submission of tissues.