What is the ‘Dog Flu’?
Canine influenza virus (CIV) is a respiratory tract disease that mimics bordetellosis (kennel cough or infectious tracheobronchitis). CIV is a highly contagious respiratory illness with symptoms ranging from mild to severe: lethargy, decreased appetite, coughing/gagging, nasal discharge, and fever. Many dogs may be infected but do not show symptoms and can still spread the virus to other dogs. This makes it difficult to determine who is exposed. Most dogs develop only mild symptoms that last for 1-3 weeks. Although not common, some patients may develop pneumonia that can be life threatening.
Types of Canine Influenza
There are two known types of CIV that infect dogs in the USA, H3N8 and H3N2. H3N8 was first diagnosed in Florida in 2004 and has since spread throughout the country. Last year, the type known as H3N2 was confirmed in a large outbreak in the Chicago area. On January 12th 2016, the Helena Independent Record reported a confirmed case of the H3N2 strain in Helena.
How is it Spread?
CIV is transmitted from respiratory secretions in the air from coughing, sneezing and barking or through contaminated surfaces and other shared objects. It can be killed by many disinfectants, but the disease can still spread directly through airborne particles.
Prevention and Vaccination
Minimizing contact with other dogs is the easiest way to prevent your dog from getting sick. Avoid places such as boarding facilities, training classes, grooming facilities, and dog parks. If this is not possible, your dog is elderly, or has a compromised immune system you now have the option of vaccinating. We offer vaccination for both strains of CIV. Patients receiving the vaccine will require two doses the first year. The second dose needs to be given 2-4 weeks after the first dose to be effective. At this time we will not require it, but will make it available on a case-by-case basis. Some boarding facilities may require it.
For mild cases, cough suppressants are often enough. For serious cases, hospitalization and more aggressive treatment may be necessary. Although antibiotics have no direct effect on the flu virus, they can be helpful in fighting secondary bacterial infections. It should also be noted that many cases of coughing in the dog are secondary to bordetella tracheal bronchitis which is a bacteria that will respond to antibiotics.
The following websites offer more information if needed: