Canine Influenza

Canine influenza is a relatively new virus to the canine infectious disease playing field, and some of the news circulating in the media may concern you or leave questions unanswered. Below is a detailed explanation of canine influenza, whether or not you should be concerned, and what symptoms to look for in your fur-friend.  As always, give us a call at (480) 893-8423 with any concerns!

What is it?

Canine influenza (CI) is actually the broad name given to two different strains of virus. H3N8 is the strain of CI that has been found in North America since 2004 when an outbreak spread in greyhound racing kennels in Florida. This outbreak quickly spread through 20 other tracks in 11 other states, and has since been steadily spreading to more than 40 states across the United States (AVMA webpage). H3N2 is the strain of CI that only recently appeared in March of 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Since March, H3N2 has also spread across the country and thousands of canines have tested positive for the disease. To recap: canine influenza is the viral infection that occurs from either the H3N8 or H3N2 strain.

How is it spread?

This virus is spread a lot like the flu is spread in humans. When your dog coughs, sneezes, or even exchanges bodily fluids with other dogs, the virus is aerosolized and spreads very easily.

What are the symptoms?

Canine influenza has very similar symptoms to other common upper respiratory diseases. Common symptoms include: coughing, sneezing, a high fever (103.0-104.0), lethargy, discharge from nose and eyes, and lack of appetite.

 What separates Canine Influenza from other upper respiratory diseases?

Often the fever is much higher, antibiotics don’t seem to clear up symptoms, and the lethargy is much more extreme. The majority of canines exhibit mild symptoms, but it is important to bring in your pet if you see any of these clinical signs. Your pet’s history and symptoms will be evaluated by your veterinarian and then he/she will consider what diagnostic tests are necessary to determine if canine influenza is the culprit.

How can my dog be tested for canine influenza?

There are several tests available to determine whether or not your pet has been infected by canine influenza. The first is called serological blood testing and involves comparing two blood samples from your pet that have been collected several days apart. Once the results are received your veterinarian will be able to determine if you pet is sick with either H3N8 or H3N2. Another test can be done using pharyngeal and conjunctival swabs that are then sent to the lab for testing, however negative results can occur if the virus is present in low quantities. This method of testing also detects both strains of the virus.

What is the treatment?

Treatment for canine influenza is similar to treatment for other viral upper respiratory infections. There is no medication that can be given to kill the virus, therefore treatment focuses on supporting the internal organ functions of your pet. Intravenous fluids, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications to reduce fever, antibiotics to prevent other infections, and hospitalization are possible treatment options.

How can I prevent my pet from contacting canine influenza?

 Although the mortality rate from this disease has been low, the morbidity rate (the likelihood of the carrier becoming sick) can be as high as 80%. Preventing your pet from getting this disease can be as easy as an exam and vaccines with Dr. Elliott!

Ahwatukee Commons offers a vaccine that protects against both strains of the virus, and once your pet has been deemed healthy enough to receive it, he/she can be vaccinated. This vaccine is considered a “lifestyle” vaccine, and should be given to pets that frequent kennels, grooming, parks, or other areas with a large concentration of other dogs. Speak to one of the staff members today for more information!