Canine Influenza (also known as the Dog Flu) is a highly contagious respiratory disease in dogs that is caused by specific influenza viruses known to infect dogs. It has been confirmed in 46 states across the U.S. and recently (January 2018) in the San Francisco Bay Area (map of positive cases by city).
Signs of Canine Influenza include coughing, runny nose, fever, lethargy, eye discharge and reduced appetite. It is spread by aerosolized respiratory secretions (coughing, sneezing, nasal discharge) from infected dogs. Dogs may also become infected by contaminated objects or materials (feeding bowls, bedding, leashes, collars, floors, etc.). To date, there is no evidence that humans can become sick with the canine influenza virus.
If your dog attends doggie day care, boarding facilities, grooming parlors, dog shows, dog parks, travels, or just “interacts with other dogs”, Town and Country Veterinary Hospital is highly recommending that we vaccinate for this canine influenza virus. A minimum of two doses, separated by 2-4 weeks is required for primary immunization. Annual re-vaccination with one dose is recommended.
Beginning February 12, 2018, all dogs staying at the Pleasanton Pet Hotel must be current on the Canine Influenza vaccination. We will accept the H3N2 strain, however, the Bi-valent H3N2/H3N8 vaccination is preferred. Town & Country carries the Bi-valent Canine Influenza vaccine, and it can be administered here. We ask that all pet owners please have the first booster done at least 1 week prior to their pets boarding stay with our Pet Hotel. Thank you.
How is it spread?
Canine influenza is spread via direct nose-to-nose contact as well as via aerosolized droplets from coughing, sneezing and barking. Contaminated droplets can also land on surfaces such as floors and walls, food and water bowls, collars and leashes. It can also spread via people travelling between the sick and healthy animals. The virus (if it's not killed by cleaning agents) remains alive on surfaces for 48 hours, clothing for 24 hours and on hands for 12 hours. The incubation period (the time before an animal is showing symptoms of the disease) is 2-4 days from when they are exposed. Unfortunately, dogs are most highly contagious during this time frame. Dogs continue to remain contagious for up to 7 days in most cases although in some cases they can be contagious for several weeks. Therefore, the recommendation by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) is to keep pets isolated and quarantined from other animals for at least 21 days. Virtually all dogs that are exposed will become infected with the virus - but only 80% will develop outward signs of disease. 20% are asymptomatic, however they can continue to shed the virus and spread disease. At this time, there is no evidence of transmission of canine influenza from dogs to people and no reported cases of canine influenza in humans.
What are the symptoms?
The majority of infected dogs show the mild form of canine influenza. The most common sign is a cough that can persist for 10 to 21 days despite treatment. You may also see yellow or cloudy nasal discharge, sneezing, lethargy and a decreased appetite. Some dogs are more severely affected and exhibit signs of pneumonia which include a high-grade fever and increased respiratory effort and rate. Pneumonia is diagnosed by taking chest x-rays.
How do you diagnose canine influenza?
One way to confirm infection is by taking nasal or throat swabs for PCR testing. This test is most reliable when done within the first 4 days of clinical signs. Another way to confirm infection is with a paired blood test measuring antibodies(which the body produces as a response to infection). We would draw a first blood sample within the initial 7 days of your pet showing symptoms, and then draw a second blood sample 14 days later. The infection is diagnosed by comparing the samples.
How do you treat it?
Since canine influenza is caused by a virus, there is no medication available to treat it directly. Treatment is mostly supportive. Treatment is often used to help them feel more comfortable and also to give them a better chance of fighting off the virus with their immune system. These treatments will be determined on a case-by-case basis. Examples of treatments include: antibiotics to treat secondary bacterial infections and cough suppressants to control a persistent cough. In severe cases with pneumonia dogs may need to be hospitalized with intravenous fluids and medications.
How do you prevent it?
Canine influenza vaccinations are available for H3N8 and H3N2. This vaccine is important for dogs that will be at boarding facilities, grooming, dog shows, dog parks, or traveling. Please speak with your veterinarian to help you decide if your pet should be vaccinated. Just like the human flu vaccines, the Canine Influenza vaccine may not completely prevent infection but it will make it less likely. Additionally, if a vaccinated dog does get infected, the disease is likely to be milder and have a shorter duration. The vaccine is given as two boosters given 2-4 weeks apart and then once a year thereafter.
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